The Importance of Challenge Poverty Week – MSP Blog

Monica Lennon MSP, Central Scotland.

Poverty is a problem that affects 940,000 people in Scotland, including 210,000 children.

That means that, once housing costs are taken into account, one fifth of children, and almost one fifth of the whole population in Scotland, are living in poverty.

These are statistics that will be no doubt mentioned frequently during this week, Challenge Poverty Week, as organisations and groups across Scotland get together to highlight what they’re doing to address poverty and to discuss what action needs to be taken in response.

They’re also worth repeating again here, and at every available opportunity – that 940,000 people in Scotland live in poverty. And over half of those in poverty live in working households.

Challenge Poverty Week is about raising awareness about the impact of poverty in our society and about changing public attitudes about what poverty is, and what it looks like, and who is affected by it.

Public attitudes towards poverty in Scotland found that as recently as 2015, almost half of people thought experience of poverty is inevitable or just down to luck. But as a fair-minded society, how we can accept that it’s simply inevitable, or just a matter of luck, that a fifth of the Scottish population lives in poverty?

People in Scotland are struggling to get by every day due to a variety of pressures we’re facing as a society – low incomes, under-employment, lack of affordable housing, job insecurity, rising  food and clothing costs.

The causes of poverty are over-lapping and complex, but the idea that poverty is an inevitable part of modern life is a myth.

I’m joining the Poverty Alliance during Challenge Poverty Week to help raises awareness of how we can tackle its causes.

In the Central Scotland region that I represent as member of the Scottish Parliament, there are many impressive organisations actively engaged in tackling poverty and helping those struggling to get by.

R:evolve Recycle is a charity project run by Lightburn Elderly Association Project, which aims to get people to think differently about their textile consumption.

R:evolve operates three swap shops, including one in Hamilton, where all clothes are free and can be exchanged.

A third of members earn under £12k per year and 43% are families with small children. Since April, the charity has also donated over a quarter of a tonne of clothing to local people in need through a clothing bank. In the South Lanarkshire area, the average annual spend on clothing is around £440, which is only a quarter of what is spent across the rest of the UK.

Community Links is a charity which aims to tackle poverty through a variety of projects such as their food poverty co-op which aims to deliver a volunteer-led route out of food crisis to local people in need across South Lanarkshire and their SELECT project which helps people gain employability skills.

There’s also Loaves and Fishes, which delivers food parcels to people in need in South Lanarkshire.

These amazing third sector organisations are just a few local examples of where action is being taken to help combat poverty across a variety of causes – access to basic resources like food and clothing and as well as access to key skills and other requirements for employability.

We rarely talk enough about these efforts or raise awareness about the work that is happening in our local communities, or the  need for these services in our local communities in the first place.

Challenge Poverty Week to me is about taking the opportunity to raise awareness of these efforts, as well as focusing on how we can alleviate the causes of poverty.

Scottish Labour has proposed an Anti-Poverty Bill, which would implement all 15 recommendations of Naomi Eisenstadt’s report “Shifting the Curve”, which was published in January.

Labour’s proposal includes:

  • Abolishing the Council Tax and replacing it with a fairer system.
  • Building 60,000 affordable homes, including 45,000 for social rent.
  • Introducing a ‘living wage’ guarantee for all public contracts.

I’m also hosting an advice surgery on Monday 24thOctober at Fairhill Lifestyles Centre in Hamilton, to mark Challenge Poverty Week, where I will be giving out further information to anyone who needs it.

I hope by raising awareness about Challenge Poverty Week that others will be encouraged to take part, this year and every year thereafter, whether that be by finding out more about the situation in their local area, hosting an event to raise awareness or even by simply starting a conversation with someone you know about attitudes toward poverty. Together, we can start to change public attitudes and help to tackle the issue of poverty in Scotland, so that no-one has to live without what they need to get by.

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