Young Scots believe poverty “isn’t a choice”

ALMOST 90 per cent of Scotland’s young people think that poverty is not a matter of choice, according to a report by the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP).

This is in contrast to findings in a Scottish Government report earlier this year that 72 per cent of adult Scots believe individual factors such as having parents who do not want to work or drug and alcohol addiction problems are the reasons behind child and youth poverty, as opposed to structural factors.

Released as part of Challenge Poverty Week, the report – named It’s Not A Choice – aimsto gain a better understanding of how young people in Scotland feel about poverty.

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Currently more than 900,000 people in Scotland live in low-income households, with one in four children living in absolute poverty. Evidence suggests that the number of children living in poverty is expected to rise by between 50,000 and 100,000 by 2020.

“To see real change in poverty status we have to increase the minimum wage to be a living wage, reduce energy bills by breaking up the power the big six energy companies have over people, and making education fully free,” one respondent commented.

Families with children account for 37 per cent of households living in poverty, which is the largest percentage of any group. 50,000 children are currently living in households that cannot afford heat and 30,000 children in families that cannot regularly afford healthy meals.

Challenge Poverty Week, organised by the Poverty Alliance, aims to highlight the experiences of those in poverty while calling for greater government action to eradicate it.

The report revealed that 68 per cent of Scotland’s young people believe that governments don’t spend enough money tackling poverty and that more should be spent on ending the cycle of poverty, improving opportunities available to those living in poverty, increasing jobs and attending to the social aspects of poverty.

Benefit sanctions, zero-hour contracts, low wages, food banks and the stigma surrounding poverty were areas of concern for those surveyed.

In 2012-13, 59 per cent of children in poverty lived in households with at least one adult in employment,suggesting that employment is not a guaranteed path out of poverty, especially with changes to the quality and nature of work.

SYP Chair, Jordan Linden said: “My fellow MSYP’s and I will be using this report to urge policy and decision makers to consider the voices of young people, and to take urgent action. Here in Scotland, one in five children are living in poverty, and this is completely unacceptable. We need swift action and smart solutions from our leaders, and this week is all about voicing those demands.”