Scottish poverty report paints ‘bleak picture’ of society in crisis

Anti-poverty campaigners are calling for action in Scotland as a “heart-breaking” report revealed a “bleak picture of a society in crisis”.

The new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that nearly one in five households on low incomes in Scotland have gone both hungry and cold this year.

The Poverty in Scotland report includes data from a survey by Savanta ComRes of 4,196 Scottish households in July and August this year.

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It found that people are “desperately” cutting back, with nearly two in three respondents (65 per cent) saying they have cut back on an essentials, while one in four (26 per cent) have cut back on three or more essentials.

Nearly one in five households on low incomes in Scotland have gone both hungry and cold this year.
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Researchers found that the cost-of-living crisis is affecting people’s mental health, with three in four families with a child where someone has a disability and four in five families with a baby saying it was having a negative impact.

The JRF is calling on the the Scottish and UK Governments to focus on two areas for urgent and significant action.

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The charity urges them to protect low-income households from unaffordable costs in the coming months and to prevent the worst impacts of the crisis from ever happening again.

Chris Birt, JRF associate director for Scotland, said: “Taken with the work of others across the third sector, the picture provided by this report is clear and heart-breaking.

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“This huge survey and the lived experience of people living in poverty must be heard. We wonder how the politicians who completely overlooked these people in the recent mini-budget can stand by their actions. Or can they now admit they’ve failed to insulate people from the worst?

“With that in mind it is shocking and morally indefensible to hear the UK Government just this week suggesting that they may not do what Rishi Sunak promised and uprate benefits by inflation next April as usual.

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“This will mean yet another devastating blow, after a decade of sucker-punches, to the finances of people on the lowest incomes, and will cause extra terror and hardship for people who are already struggling to put food on the table and stay warm.

“While the UK Government’s immoral abandonment of those who need the support most is indefensible, people are now looking to the Scottish Government for support and they deserve no less.”

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The JRF said the report “paints a bleak picture of a society in crisis”.

The report also found that around a third of those surveyed said they have either no savings or their savings were less than £250, while more than one in five (23%) people said they felt their household financial situation was very insecure.

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Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “Tackling child poverty is a national mission and we are doing everything we can within our limited powers and fixed budget to support those who need it.

“We have allocated almost £3 billion in this financial year to contribute towards mitigating the cost-of-living crisis and almost a third of this support is only available in Scotland.

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“Yet at the same time as we focus on providing direct financial support to people on the lowest incomes, UK Government policy undermines this.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “Latest figures show there were two million fewer people in absolute poverty after housing costs than in 2009/10, including 500,000 fewer children and 400,000 pensioners.

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“But we recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting millions of the most vulnerable families across England, Scotland and Wales, with at least £1,200 of direct payments and saving households an average of £1,000 a year through our new Energy Price Guarantee.”

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