Child poverty rate in Scotland reaches 1 in 5

In more than half of Glasgow's constituencies, the child poverty rate exceeds the 20 per cent figure. Picture: Getty
In more than half of Glasgow's constituencies, the child poverty rate exceeds the 20 per cent figure. Picture: Getty
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CHILDREN in one in five Scottish families live in poverty, campaigners have warned, with fears that number is set to rise.

Charities behind the Campaign to End Child Poverty have revealed a map of Scotland, highlighting areas where youngsters’ lives are blighted by deprivation.

Child poverty remains an ongoing problem in Glasgow. Picture: Getty

Child poverty remains an ongoing problem in Glasgow. Picture: Getty

All six areas with the highest levels of child poverty are in Glasgow, where in some parts every other child lives in a family struggling to put food on the table or pay heating bills.

The Scottish Government’s own target is that less than 10 per cent of children should be living in relative poverty by 2020 – down from 20 per cent currently.

This is where the household income is less than 60 per cent of the UK average, before rent or mortgage costs are deducted.

Critics warn Scotland will never end child poverty as long as it is measured as a proportion of average earnings, and call for an absolute, rather than a relative, measure.

Mark Ballard, head of policy at Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “This is not our measure. This is the UK Child Poverty Act’s measure.

“But societies that are more equal avoid having these extreme levels of poverty represented in these figures.”

He added: “The Scottish Government aims to reduce the number of people growing up in poverty to 10 per cent by 2020. We feel it’s currently around one in five, so twice the level it needs to reach. And there’s some recent analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, that shows a large number of children going into poverty in the next few years.

“That’s a UK analysis, but we would imagine Scotland would not be immune from these changes.”

The charities, which includes Barnardo’s, Save the Children, and Children 1st, are calling for a dramatic “ramping up of political focus” to protect young people from poverty.

That includes a review of welfare cuts, greater investment in universal credit, more spending on childcare and early years, and more employment.

However, they say families also need to make better choices about what to spend their money on.

“There are issues in society as a whole in terms of management of budgets, that’s not limited to people on low incomes,” Mr Ballard said.

“But the Scottish Government has got to meet its target. We are holding them to their pledge. There are other initiatives that should look at things like budgeting.”

John Dickie, spokesman for Scottish members of the Campaign to End Child Poverty, added: “There could be no clearer message to politicians that a dramatic ramping up of focus is needed to meet government promises to end child poverty.

“It is shameful that in almost every part of our country there are children who are missing out and seeing their future life chances seriously harmed.”

He added: “An increasing number of children, particularly in Scotland, are living in families without paid work and we are deeply concerned about the effect that rising unemployment is having on child poverty.

“As a matter of extreme urgency, governments must work together to ensure parents can access jobs that they can raise a family on.”

Experts warned relative poverty is a flawed model, which make countries appear worse off than they actually are, but added that Scotland’s problems are very real.

Professor Robert Wright, an expert in economics and demographics at Strathclyde University, said: “Measuring poverty as relative to an average income implies you will always have poverty. It can also throw up some strange statistics – if you take relative poverty, you get more in Sweden than in Bangladesh.

“But you have to start somewhere and this does tell us something.”

He added: “One thing we know about Scotland, no matter how we measure it, is that the gap between rich and poor is extremely wide compared to other ‘high income’ countries. We don’t know why this is.”

Kay Tisdall, professor of childhood policy at Edinburgh University, warned poverty in Scotland is firmly entrenched and will be made even worse by welfare reforms and a lack of jobs.

“Scotland has a lengthy history of child poverty, compared to other parts of the UK and Europe more generally,” she said.

“This is fundamentally about inequality, about government policies, local and global economies, and not individual families’ decisions.

“Individual decisions do matter, but too often there is an undue emphasis on supply – are individuals willing and ready to work? And too little, particularly in these times of recession, on demand – are there viable jobs to take up?”

The map shows the council ward of Springburn, in Glasgow, has the highest level of child poverty, at 52 per cent.

Patricia Ferguson, Labour MSP for Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn, said: “It is nothing short of a disgrace that every second child in this part of Glasgow is living in poverty.

“If the SNP government needed a wake-up call, then this is it.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are determined to address child poverty. Last year, we launched Scotland’s first national strategy to tackle child poverty, which will see Scotland’s poorest families benefit from help to increase household incomes and improve their children’s life chances.”