Intense child poverty found in Scotland's most affluent areas

15 March 2018

Professor John McKendrick

Professor John McKendrick

Intense child poverty can be found in some of Scotland’s most affluent areas with two-thirds of those suffering income deprivation living outside areas identified as deprived.

The warning is included in a briefing paper outlining the challenge faced by the country’s 32 local authorities as they prepare to draft their own action plans to tackle child poverty.

Councils are compelled to publish local Child Poverty Delivery Plans following the passing of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill, which seeks to eradicate child poverty in Scotland by 2030.

Professor John McKendrick, of Glasgow Caledonian University, states income deprivation affects households across the country and questions traditional approaches to tackling the issue, in a paper for the Poverty and Inequality Commission.

Areas of Barrhead, in East Renfrewshire, Hillhead, in East Dunbartonshire, and Peterhead, in Aberdeenshire, are cited as examples where pockets of household poverty of 30% or more exist.

The analysis, which calls for flexible work opportunities and whole-year childcare support to help parents enter work, comes as Glasgow Caledonian University prepares to officially launch the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU).

The unit, designed to strengthen the relationship between those working on poverty and inequality research and those working in communities, will be formally launched at a special event at GCU on Tuesday, March 20.

Professor McKendrick said: “Although it would be misleading to claim that poverty is ‘everywhere’ in Scotland, the evidence suggests that it is far more widespread than might be expected.

“Even within those local authorities with the lowest levels of child poverty in Scotland, there are pockets of intense child poverty in which more than one in every four children are living in poverty.

“This suggests that even in most of the affluent neighbourhoods there are some people who are living on an income that means that they are not able to afford what the majority of people in Scotland would agree that the majority should be able to afford.

“It must also be acknowledged that recent reductions in capacity within Scottish local authorities may have resulted in a loss of expertise among those most directly involved in local anti-poverty work. Similarly, constraints on local authority budgets limit the bounds of what is possible.”

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, used to assess local areas of poverty, looks at a range of factors such as adequate housing, health, education, and employment.

If income deprivation alone is used, two-thirds of those affected live outwith a deprived area.

The Poverty and Inequality Commission provides independent advice to ministers, monitors the progress towards tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland and holds the Scottish Government to account.

Professor McKendrick added: “Without question, responsibility for the most powerful tools to alleviate child poverty in Scotland rests with the UK Government.

“Notwithstanding the limits to what Scotland can achieve without full control of the levers of tax, tax credits and social security, with the powers at its disposal Scotland can ensure that the scale of progress in tackling child poverty is greater than that of other UK regions using the tools at its disposal to greatest effect.”