The first results have just been published from the largest survey ever undertaken of poverty and social exclusion in the UK – the PSE-UK survey. They make for shocking reading – or viewing for those who saw the ITV documentary ‘Tonight: Breadline Britain’.
Unlike most Government statistics on poverty which use a measure of income, this approach measures people’s actual living standards directly. And unlike the Government statistics, the survey uses a consensual or democratic approach to defining minimum standards or the ‘poverty line’.
The PSE-UK study uses two surveys. The first survey measures public opinion on which items people think that everyone should have and which activities they think everyone should be able to afford to do – the ‘necessities’. Separate lists cover adults and children. For adults, for example, the majority of the population thinks that necessities include a damp-free home and two meals a day. For children, the majority thinks that necessities include three meals a day and a holiday away from home for one week a year.
The survey shows that one effect of the recession has been to make people slightly less generous in their views about the minimum standard. Some items which had been regarded as necessities in the 1999 survey were no longer regarded as such in 2012. In other words, the public see poverty in ‘relative’ terms – their sense of the minimum standard rising and falling with living standards in general.
The second survey examines living standards, and identifies how many people are unable to afford each necessity due to lack of money. One striking feature of the minimum standard which the public defines in this survey is how far above current levels of welfare benefits or minimum wages it is. For Scotland, for example:
- Over 1-in-5 people (21%) suffers from a damp, inadequately heated or poorly decorated home. The majority of Scots (over 50%) think that everyone no one should have to suffer any of these things.
- The great majority of Scots (over 75%) think that all children should have: three meals a day; fresh fruit and vegetables daily; and meat/fish or vegetarian equivalent every day. 3% of Scottish families contain children who lack at least one food item.
- 1-in-12 working-age adults cannot afford appropriate clothes for a job interview (8%). Among unemployed adults, the figure is more than 2-in-5 (41%).
For Britain as a whole, we can also compare the results for 2012 with those for similar surveys in 1983, 1990, and 1999. These show that the situation today is worse than it has been for the past thirty years. In 1983, 14% of the British population suffered from multiple deprivation by the standards set by the public. Today, it is 33%.
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant RES-060-25-0052), the project involves teams from the Universities of Bristol, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Queens Belfast and York, as well as the Open University. For more details, please visit the project website (www.poverty.ac.uk).
Nick Bailey is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Glasgow. He is also a member of the Board of the Poverty Alliance. he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Guest blog post by Milind Kolhatkar – Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council.
Over two days last week I was privileged to join hundreds of people keen to tackle poverty at The Poverty Alliance’s third Poverty Assembly. Details – and plenty of multimedia – via YouTube and at PovertyAlliance.org and via #PovertyAssembly for those of a twitterary bent.
I was heartened and encouraged by what I saw and heard through the interactions between civil society organisations, politicians, commentators and real live activists – with a slew of social media staff and volunteers active across the two days.
Heartened, yes. Encouraged, most certainly. But still, I left the two days hungry for more change, more urgently. The old Politics, the old Economics have served society poorly. Though there is a discernible desire to make positive change with people, for people, the alternatives have gained too little traction.
We hear talk of the new consensual politics – but we see the old, oppositional tribalism.
We hear talk of the new, person-centred economy – but we see Governments – at every level – hoping to return to Business-As-Usual (and struggling Third Sector organisations vying amongst themselves to be the most Business-like!).
On day two of the #PovertyAssembly we were invited to make a pledge for the next year. I promised to speak out more strongly to End Poverty, and to Tweet more to #EndPoverty. Expect more. I hope many who were there pledged to be greedy for good, to want more, to expect better.
The time is right for an Economy that serves People, rather than People being slaves to the Economy.
The time is right for a Politics that relocate Power with the Many not the Few.
The time is right for a Society that turns its back on the destructive and divisive values of hyper-consumerism, and rather values Human Assets and the Core Economy – caring and life-enhancing, creative and joyful.
As this blog becomes our ‘go to’ space for action to End Poverty – for sharing, debating, encouraging and a little bit of giggling – I’ll be pleased to meet you here.
CONTROVERSIAL changes to the welfare system will “wind the clock back” by more than a decade in terms of child poverty levels, a think-tank adviser has warned.
Dr Jim McCormick, Scotland adviser with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said UK Government proposals aimed at simplifying the benefits system would put the country on track to miss child poverty alleviation targets.
Dr McCormick was appearing at the first meeting of Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee, set up to scrutinise the Welfare Reform Bill currently passing through Westminster.
The Bill will bring in a £26,000-a-year household benefits cap and set up the universal credit for benefits.
Charities, trade unions and public-sector organisations have warned the changes could lead to a rise in homelessness and child poverty, as well as have an adverse effect on disabled and vulnerable people.
Speaking during a round-table discussion at the committee, Dr McCormick said the benefits package being proposed by the UK Government would be “substantially poverty increasing”.
He said figures from work carried out for the foundation by the Institute for Fiscal Studies indicated that by 2020, the UK would be left with the “remarkable situation where we have the UK Government and the devolved administrations all signed up to the child poverty targets of a big reduction in child poverty, and yet we are on track to miss that target by two and half times”.
“We can talk about a mitigation, long-term prevention agenda for Scotland, but the big picture here is an increase in poverty which winds the clock back to the date when this Parliament began in 1999, in terms of child poverty levels,” he said.
“If nothing else changes, that’s the track we are on as a result of welfare reform.”
Dr McCormick was joined by representatives from other voluntary and public-sector organisations who all raised concerns about the adverse impact of the reforms.
Michael McClements, policy manager at council umbrella group Cosla, warned that services provided by local authorities would be put under increased pressure.
“Local authorities have already done some work and are looking at the impact on charging policies, and the expectation is that more people will require more services, but their ability to make payment for those services will be reduced,” he said.
Dr Jim McCormick will be opening the #PovertyAssembly 2012 at 10.30am today. Remember you can join in the debate via the hashtag and by following the live video stream over at http://bit.ly/povertyassembly
Leading policy-makers, commentators and charities are joining forces to explore new solutions to poverty and inequality in Scotland. With the economy flat-lining, youth unemployment increasing, fuel poverty rocketing and more and more families hit by debt and low income, there has never been a greater need for new, alternative approaches.
On the 15th and 16th of March community and voluntary groups, people experiencing poverty, policy makers and politicians will gather in Glasgow for the third annual Scottish Assembly for Tackling Poverty. They will debate the problems Scotland faces, and plan the practical actions that will help tackle poverty now and in the future.
Organized by the Poverty Alliance, the anti-poverty network in Scotland, the Assembly will not only to raise awareness about the reality of poverty in Scotland, but also create opportunities for genuine dialogue between communities facing poverty, and policy makers and politicians that are responsible for addressing it.
Among the issues which will be debated are:
Child poverty: is expected to increase in Scotland over the next three years, but recent figures show that half of local authorities in Scotland have wards where more than 30% of children live in low income households.
Welfare reform: the new system is expected to take £500million out of the pockets of disabled people in Scotland every year from 2013. What are the alternatives to further benefit cuts and increased compulsion in the system?
Alternative economic models: Income inequality has continued to increase in Scotland, and despite high unemployment we still work some of the longest hours in Europe. How do we get a better balance between economic growth and economic fairness?
Fuel poverty: Price increases could push another 170,000 Scottish households into fuel poverty, taking the total to near 1 million. What more can we do to address the problem both locally and nationally?
Sustainable communities: Many communities in Scotland have been blighted by lack of investment and lack of jobs resulting in decline. How do we create socially and economically sustainable communities?
Alongside community representatives from across Scotland there will be a wide range of speakers including Owen Jones, the author of ‘Chavs’, Philip Blond, one of the key thinkers behind the Big Society, Anna Coote Head of Social Policy at the New Economics Foundation, and Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland and Ghazala Hakeem a community activist with the Poverty Truth Commission.
On the second day the Assembly will hear contributions from a range of local and national politicians including Michael Matheson MSP, the Scottish Minister for Public Health.
Peter Kelly, Director of Poverty Alliance, said: “Whether it is bankers’ bonuses, rising fuel bills, or cuts to public services, there is widespread discontent with the direction our society is moving.”
“Behind the headlines about bonuses or so-called ‘welfare cheats’ the fact is that inequality and poverty will increase in Scotland over the next few years. This Assembly is an opportunity for all those concerned, including those with direct experience, to come together to find practical alternatives to the policies that are currently failing us.”
Philip Blond, Director of the think-tank Respublica, and author of Red Tory said: “We desperately need to rethink our approaches to poverty, spending billions on small payments to supplement income has not moved anyone out of poverty, we need to focus on assets, culture and education if we are really to save the poor from their lot.”
Anna Coote, Head of Social Policy at the New Economic Foundation, said: “It is time to transform our welfare system from one based on a scarcity of economic resources to one based on an abundance of human resources. “We can do this by tapping into the wealth of human assets that are embedded in everyday lives and relationships. But it will only work if everyone is able to participate and contribute on equal terms.”
Owen Jones, author and journalist, added: “Austerity threatens to plunge hundreds of thousands of people into poverty and hardship. If the welfare bill is to be reduced, rather than kicking people at the bottom, the focus must be on tackling a three-fold crisis: housing, jobs, and low wages.”
Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “Oxfam fights poverty around the world and on our doorstep. There is no excuse for poverty in Scotland. The country is richer than ever before, but inequality is increasing. That shows that our economy isn’t working. We need to create a new economy together that promotes fairness and equal opportunities, and one that meets people’s real priorities.”
“Part of that is about giving communities real power to make change. Part of it is about helping businesses create real work. And a big part of it is about making sure social support like state benefits are easily-accessible and at a level that gives the most vulnerable people in our society real protection.”
Ghazala Hakeem from the Poverty Truth Commission said: “The Scottish Assembly for Tackling Poverty is a real opportunity to challenge the acceptance of poverty that seems to exist in our society. It is also a chance for those directly affected by poverty to have their voices heard, which must be the basis for real change.”
Michael was elected as the MSP for Falkirk West following the May 2007 elections. Previous to that he was a Regional MSP for Central Scotland from 1999-2007. Before being appointed Minister for Public Health and Sport Michael was Vice Convenor of the European and External Relations Committee. He also sat on the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, and previously served on the Justice and Enterprise and Culture Committees.
He was re-elected at the May 5, 2011 election and thereafter appointed to his present Ministerial position.
He is married to Susan and has three sons, Sean, James and Daniel. Away from politics, Michael is a keen mountaineer, which has taken him to the Western Himalayas.
Remember we only have Day 2 (16th March 2012) tickets left – these are available for FREE.
The Scottish Assembly for Tackling Poverty returns on 15 & 16th March 2012, tickets are free and registration is open now. If you can’t make it along you can follow the day online via the Twitter hashtag #PovertyAssembly plus we’ll have a live video stream of the main talks and debates available online.
The full report from last year’s Assembly is available to read below.