Almost one-fifth of Scots living in poverty before coronavirus outbreak

Around one in five Scots were living in poverty before the Covid-19 outbreak hit, the latest official figures show.

Between 2016 and 2019, some 19% of people were found to be living in relative poverty after housing costs.

The Scottish Government’s annual figures are used to monitor progress in reducing poverty and income inequality.

Based on an average figure between 2016 and 2019, 24% of Scottish children were living in relative poverty.

This is around 230,000 children and is the same proportion as the previous three-year period.

Median household incomes in Scotland continue to rise, while income inequality has been fluctuating since the data started being gathered in the mid-1990s.

The Scottish Government aims to reduce relative child poverty to 10% by 2031.

Charities warned the coronavirus crisis will make the situation worse for many families in Scotland.

Peter Kelly, director of Poverty Alliance, said: “Today’s figures paint a shocking picture of poverty in Scotland, with one in five people living in poverty even before Covid-19 hit.

“The figures also show that one in four children lives in poverty and two-thirds of these children live in a household where at least one parent is in work.”

He added: “In the coming months, thousands more risk being plunged into poverty as unemployment rises.

“In just nine days, the DWP has already reported almost 500,000 new applications for Universal Credit.

“This is a huge concern when its inbuilt five-week delay pulls so many into debt and deeper poverty.”

Claire Telfer, head of Save the Children in Scotland,  said: “Today’s figures remind us that many families in Scotland were struggling before the Coronavirus crisis.

“We are concerned these numbers could soar further as a result of the coronavirus crisis, plunging families into desperate situations.”

She added: “The Government has already done a great deal to support households during this difficult time.

“But more must be done to help some families stay afloat.

“We urge the Scottish Government to use all of its powers to put money directly into the pockets of families.

“This should include cash payments for free school meals and topping up benefits that support low-income families.

“If we don’t act now, we risk even more families being locked in poverty.”