Race and Poverty in Scotland – do these intercept?

By Ghzala Khan and Nadeem Hanif, West of Scotland Regional Equality Council (WSREC)


‘Minority ethnic communities also experience the highest rates of poverty in Scotland. The potential routes out of poverty for minority ethnic families and individuals are reduced by barriers, many of which are connected to structural and direct forms of racism.’ – Scottish Government Race Equality Framework 2016-2030.

The above research suggests that there is to some extent a disparity between minority ethnic communities residing in Scotland and the wider indigenous communities.

WSREC have a vision to “see an inclusive society free from discrimination”.  What this means in practice is that our aims are to ensure individuals from all minority ethnic backgrounds across a broad range of protected characteristics are provided with additional support. This includes reducing inequalities and increasing access to mainstream service provision including welfare and employment.


Twenty five per cent of people from (non-white) ethnic minority groups were in relative poverty (before housing costs) compared with 14 per cent from the

White British group over the period 2011/12 – 2013/14. – Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Poverty and Ethnicity


We have found barriers to include language, little opportunity to up-skill and capacity build, therefore, resulting in an increase on individuals from diverse backgrounds suffering from financial stress which often leads to indefinite poverty, isolation and poor mental health. The vicious circle continues with individuals with poor mental health unable to come out of isolation and increase their income.

In the case of our delivery of service, we have come across individuals and families who at the moment are residing in the most deprived areas, on little or no income with very little opportunity to take positive steps to be financially capable, thus not being able to make informed choices to increase their resources. These communities include new migrants, asylum seekers and refugees along with second and third generation migrant communities. Additionally, areas such as fuel poverty and lack of access to welfare and housing often result in child poverty which is underreported in a lot of cases.

Therefore, through various research exercises and our project delivery, it can be proven that there is a link between poverty and race within Scotland.

To address some of the aforementioned issues we focus our service provision to ensure that we combat some of the barriers encountered by communities. For example, we ran a 3 year employability project to capacity build and empower individuals to develop their skills in order to access better opportunities within employment. Similarly, through our climate challenge funded project, we have trained energy advisors who assist communities in understanding energy, making informed choices to lift them out of fuel poverty along with reducing their overall carbon footprint.

Other projects we deliver include advocacy support, increase in civic participation, financial capability and addressing discrimination which in some form all connect to reducing poverty within diverse communities.

There are ongoing recommendations in Scottish Government publications such as the Race Equality Framework, the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and Every Child Every Chance which should be looked at by mainstream service providers. This will be beneficial when designing and shaping services to ensure that individuals from diverse communities are getting the same opportunities as the wider community when it comes to eradicating poverty within Scotland, especially when addressing minority ethnic community needs.


Links to publications

Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Poverty and Ethnicity https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/poverty-and-ethnicity-key-messages-scotland

Race Equality Framework for Scotland – https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0049/00497601.pdf

Fairer Scotland Action Plan


Every Child Every Chance




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