HALF-A-MILLION people are in “very deep poverty” in Scotland with statistics showing women and ethnic minorities are disproportionately at risk, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) charity.
It looked at “relative poverty”, “very deep poverty”, and “in-work poverty”, and found housing costs were particularly detrimental to working families.
More than a million people, including about 250,000 children, are living in relative poverty, while a 10th of the Scottish population – nearly half a million – are living in “very deep poverty”, according to a new JRF State of the Nation report.
It showed that 60% of children living in poverty have at least one parent who works, and one 10th of workers were paid below the Real Living Wage for at least four in five years.
People from a minority ethnic back-ground experience a rate of in-work poverty more than triple the rate for white workers, while 70% of those “trapped in persistent low pay” were women, and another 70% were single.
Almost three-quarters of families impacted by “in-work poverty” have at least one person working in retail, hospitality, health and social work, administrative and support services, and/or manufacturing. Housing costs had a huge impact, with 110,000 people in working families “pulled into poverty due to their housing costs”.
The charity said the UK Government is in denial over the cost of living crisis and that a “work first” approach had failed to reduce poverty along with changes to Universal Credit.
First Minister Humza Yousaf has pledged to call on the UK Government to legislate for an Essentials Guarantee to ensure Universal Credit should protect people from going without the essentials.
JRF associate director for Scotland Chris Birt said: “The Scottish Government can still meet its child poverty reduction targets but it needs to get a move on.
“While the Scottish Child Payment is providing crucial support to families and starting to drive poverty down again, it isn’t enough.
“A major reason for that is the failure of work to be a reliable route out of poverty, particularly for women. Some of our biggest industries are trapping people in low pay, unreliable hours and underemployment.
“There are things governments can, and should do but businesses need to engage with their workforces to ensure employees are able to secure an income that supports them to get by.
“At the same time, decision-makers are sleepwalking towards another winter that promises to be crushing for households across Scotland.
“The Scottish Government will need to react to this in its forthcoming Budget but the UK Government in particular seems to believe the cost of living crisis is over. It is wrong.
“We want to see the UK Government come through for the Scottish people by embracing the Essentials Guarantee which would improve the lives of people across these islands.”
Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm is one of three critical missions for the Government. We know poverty doesn’t affect everyone equally and that is why we continue to have a particular focus on supporting women, disabled people, racialised minorities, and children from our six priority family groups.
“This year we are investing around £3 billion in policies aimed at tackling poverty and protecting people as far as possible during the ongoing cost of living crisis.
“This includes ongoing investment in our Scottish Child Payment, with 316,000 children benefiting from unique support worth £25 per week as of June 30, and making £83.7 million available through Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate the impact of UK Government welfare cuts.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Government’s priorities are clear – the best way to help people in Scotland and across the United Kingdom with the cost of living is by driving down inflation and growing our economy.
“We have also provided unprecedented support, recognising the challenges families are facing with the cost of living, providing an average of £3300 per household while also increasing benefits in line with inflation and lifting the living wage by record levels.”