Lack of affordable housing a key factor in ‘devastating’ rise in child poverty
Shelter Scotland has called for a “step change” in the provision of affordable homes in Scotland after new figures found that more than a quarter of children were living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2015-2016.
Statistics published yesterday by the Scottish Government show that 260,000 children (26%) are living in poverty in Scotland compared to 220,000 (22%) in the previous year.
Overall 1.05 million people in Scotland were in relative poverty after they had paid housing costs, up 2% from the previous year.
Responding to figures, Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “These figures confirm 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.
“It’s simply wrong that 1 in 4 children should find themselves in poverty and that more than 1 in 10 children have been living with persistent poverty for three or more of the last four years.
“We want to see a step change in the provision of good quality and truly affordable homes being delivered in communities where they are needed across Scotland. We also need to protect investment in the housing safety net that helps some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society through very hard times and keeps a roof over their head.”
Alison Watson added: “Poverty and homelessness are closely linked – it doesn’t take too much to tip a family over the edge into a spiral of debt, arrears and homelessness. A new national strategy on homelessness is needed to tackle the issues fuelling today’s homelessness.”
Poverty campaigners urged the Scottish Government to redouble its efforts and use all the powers at its disposal to boost family incomes.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “We cannot afford to lose sight of the tens of thousands of children across Scotland that lie behind these statistics and the devastating impact that poverty will too often have on their health, wellbeing and life chances.
“These figures highlight just how important the Child Poverty Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament is. But legislation alone won’t end poverty and the Scottish Government must now act quickly to implement the kind of concrete, practical policies that would make a significant dent in these figures. The latest modelling suggests that using new powers to top-up child benefit by £5 a week would, for example, reduce child poverty in Scotland by up to 14%, lifting around 30,000 children out of poverty.”
According to the campaign group, the main drivers behind rising child poverty are UK government cuts to financial support for families whether they are in or out of work.
Mr Dickie added: “The UK Chancellor completely ignored the plight of low income families in Scotland and across the UK in last week’s Budget. Today’s statistics are a stark reminder why he needs to end the freeze on family benefits and reverse cuts to Universal Credit for working families if the UK government’s rhetoric on supporting ‘ordinary families’ is to mean anything.”