Growing child poverty linked to soaring cost of housing

Nearly a third of children live in poverty.
Nearly a third of children live in poverty.
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About 70,000 Scottish children have been pushed into poverty as a result of soaring housing costs, new figures reveal. Campaigners say the latest figures should sound an “alarm bell” for the Scottish Government to take immediate action.

One in four children in Scotland are now living in poverty and the problem is escalating.

Alison Watson - deputy director of Shelter Scotland

Alison Watson - deputy director of Shelter Scotland

Rent levels have soared across Scotland in recent years, with hotspots in particular areas like Edinburgh. This eats into the incomes of poorer households and can push them into in hardship.

Some 260,000 Scots children found themselves in poverty last year – including an extra 70,000 who were pushed into this situation because of high housing costs, Scottish Government figures have shown. The latter figure is 20,000 higher than when the SNP came to office in 2007. It means 26 per cent of children in Scotland are living in relative poverty, up from 22 per cent the previous year.

Labour housing spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said: “These figures should focus minds in the SNP government. Scotland has been gripped by a housing crisis for years, and now we are seeing the human cost – families trapped on waiting lists or unable to get on the housing ladder start a vicious cycle which pushes more and more children into poverty.

“Since being re-elected last May, the SNP has taken its eye off the ball. New houses being completed are down and ministers are too focused on campaigning for a divisive second independence referendum.”

Labour has called for more housebuilding and is proposing to increase child benefit by £240 a year by 2020, insisting this will lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty.

The Scottish Government is currently introducing the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill which it says is aimed at eradicating child poverty in the country.

A spokesman for Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: “A good supply of affordable homes is vital to ensuring everyone has an equal chance of getting on in life.

“When Labour were last in power they only built six council houses – in contrast we have brought back council house building and are investing in delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes – with 35,000 available for social rent – over this parliament, backed by £3 billion.”

A budget of £422 million has been set aside for affordable homes this year, he said. “In addition we have taken action in a number of ways to tackle inequalities, including free school meals, increasing child care, additional financial support to reduce the attainment gap, an improvement programme to address neglect and enhance wellbeing.”

Alison Watson, Deputy Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Recent figures confirmed the devastating impact the lack of affordable housing is having on families and individuals living in Scotland, pushing more into poverty and damaging their wellbeing and life chances – especially children. That 170,000 more people have been pushed into poverty because of their housing costs should be yet another alarm bell for the Scottish Government that much more needs to be done right now to tackle Scotland’s housing crisis.”