‘People blamed for being poor’, says poverty group

The group said that much of the cash being spent to help the poor was failing to reach those who needed it most. Picture: TSPL
The group said that much of the cash being spent to help the poor was failing to reach those who needed it most. Picture: TSPL
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A POVERTY action group said people were being blamed for being poor and much of the cash being spent to help was failing to reach those who needed it most.

The Poverty Truth Commission is calling for an end to zero-hour contracts and a commitment to paying workers a living wage.

They are among a number of “practical solutions” the group has identified and will present at an event in Glasgow on Saturday.

The Commission is made up of people directly affected by poverty and those who deal with poverty in their professions, such as representatives from Citizens Advice Scotland and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

More than half of Scots suffering poverty live in working households and 20% of children are growing up in homes suffering economic hardship, according to the group.

It is calling for those suffering from the effect of poverty to be listened to instead of ignored or blamed for their situation.

Scotland’s former Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns is on the Commission.

He said: “Most people encounter poverty as beggars in the street.

“What they don’t appreciate is the extent of real poverty affecting their neighbours in their own communities.

“These are the families who, perhaps after a lifetime of working, struggle with day to day expenses such as food and go hungry in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.”

The Commission met 10 times over 18 months and examined the growth of poverty among those in employment, the impact of welfare cuts, the stigma people in poverty experience and the extra cost of being poor.

It said people who used pre-payment meters were put on a higher rate than direct debit customers and called on energy providers to make the system equal.

It challenged social and private landlords to help reduce fuel poverty through more effective insulation and said the UK and Scottish Governments should look at developing a not-for-profit energy company.

The Commission also condemned the “dramatic” rise in sanctions imposed on benefit claimants for offences such as being late for an appointment.

“Sanctions, rather than incentivising people to find work, have the opposite impact,” it said.

“They are breaking people’s spirits and damaging their physical and mental health - the last straw for those whose cupboards are already empty.

“The Commission does not dispute the need for sanctions as a last resort.

“However, it is clear that they are currently being disproportionately and unfairly applied.”

The group said: “Increasingly people are being blamed for being poor.

“Whilst there is a huge amount of money spent seeking to tackle the symptoms of poverty, a significant proportion of it never reaches those who need it most.

“We challenge politicians and civic leaders to stop talking about those in poverty and to start learning with them.”

The Commission will present its findings to an audience of 450 people at the Turning Up the Volume on Poverty event at Woodside Hall on Saturday.

A new group of commissioners will be established, including MSPs Jackie Baillie and Bob Doris and Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia.