SCOTLAND has seen a dramatic increase in “working poverty” with a quarter of a million adults living on the breadline when one member of their household has a job.
Statistics released by the Scottish Government yesterday showed that over half (52 per cent) of working-age adults in poverty were in “in-work” poverty – a category which refers to individuals living in households where at least one member is working either full- or part-time.
The 250,000 figure for 2012-13 represents an increase of 50,000 working-age adults in “in-work” poverty compared with the previous financial year (2011-12).
The number of children living in poverty who were in households in employment has also risen in the latest year, with 110,000 youngsters in Scotland living in in-work poverty in 2012-13.
Six in ten children in poverty in Scotland in 2012-13 were in households where at least one adult was in employment. There were 30,000 more children in in-work poverty in 2012-13 compared with the previous year.
Overall, the figures showed that poverty in Scotland has risen by 110,000 in one year, with 820,000 people across the country struggling to get by.
Scottish Government statistics for 2012-13 show 16 per cent were classed as living in relative poverty – where their household income is less than 60 per cent of the average.
But when housing costs were factored in, that rose to 19 per cent of the population – with a million people facing financial difficulties after paying for their accommodation.
The number of children living in poverty also rose last year, along with the total of both working-age adults and pensioners in this position.
Overall, it was found that the number of children in poverty stood at 180,000.
That figure suggests 19 per cent of Scottish children were living in relative poverty in 2012-13, an increase of 30,000 on the previous year.
When housing costs were taken into account, the number of impoverished children rose to 220,000.
According to the Scottish Government’s report Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland, the increase in child poverty was driven by a fall in incomes for working households with children.
The reduced entitlement to tax credits has contributed to a fall in household incomes for those with lower earnings.
At April 2013, there was a 26 per cent decrease in the number of households with children in receipt of in-work tax credits, compared with April 2012.
According to anti-poverty campaigners, the increasing number of working households in poverty is a major cause for concern.
“This is one of the long-term changes that we have seen over the last 20 years – the gradual increase in the number of people affected by in-work poverty,” said Peter Kelly of the Poverty Alliance.
“That is why policies like the living wage are so important. Policies like that mean that issues like this are not just the responsibility of government, but the responsibility of employers as well. Welfare changes like freezing tax credit is one of the reasons you get these figures.
“Work should be a route out of poverty, but for many it is not. These figures are one of the biggest issues.”
John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “These shocking figures mark the turning of the tide on child poverty as UK government tax and benefit policies slash family incomes at the same time as wages stagnate.
“After years of real progress, 30,000 more children have already been pushed into poverty in Scotland and massive increases are forecast for the years ahead.
“UK ministers need to come out of their denial and produce a child poverty strategy that boosts rather than cuts family incomes, whilst here in Scotland ministers need to translate the Scottish child poverty strategy into the improved wages, services and support that families need in the face of unprecedented pressure on their incomes.”
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed the statistics showed that independence was “vital” for Scotland to tackle the problem. “Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world and there is no reason for children to be living in poverty in our society,” she said.
But Labour blamed the SNP for not doing enough to alleviate poverty.
Scottish Labour’s social justice spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said: “It is completely unacceptable that one million Scots are now living in poverty.”
Single mother who knows what it’s like to be struggling
As A single mother of three young children, Louise Allan is well aware of the challenges of living on the breadline.
A former nursery nurse, Ms Allan, 31, felt she had to give up her job when her partner left her when she was pregnant with her youngest child.
“I realised that I was going to be on my own and I felt that my children needed me more than ever. It was really hard and I felt that I was just muddling along, but I felt it was important that I should be around for my kids,” she said.
“The lack of childcare is one of the biggest problems for lone parents, mainly because it is so expensive. The Scottish Government says it wants to extend nursery provision to two-year-olds, but it needs to be affordable. At the moment, if you are a lone parent who’s working, the majority of your wage needs to be going on childcare, and you begin to think what’s the point?”
Currently surviving on benefits, Ms Allan, from Cowdenbeath, does voluntary work for Fife Gingerbread, a charity in Leven which helps single parent families.
As the mother of two boys, aged 13 and eight, and with a four-year-old daughter not yet school age, Ms Allan is well aware of many of the problems facing the lone parents with whom she works.
“You get pressures from the job centres. Some people working there are fantastic. They view you as human beings. But others are not so good. For instance, they might put you up for a job at Poundland – and this is no criticism of people who work for Poundland – but their skills might not be suitable.
“At the other end of the spectrum, you have people being told they should be nurses when they are not qualified, and that can be quite belittling.”