Scotland politics

Report says poverty mostly hits the young in Scotland

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Young adults in Scotland are the population group most likely to experience poverty, a report has said.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that one in four of those under the age of 30 is at risk of financial hardship.

Its report said the poverty faced by young adults contrasts with an improving picture for other age groups.

For those over the age of 65, poverty rates were found to have fallen by almost half.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil welcomed the report and called on businesses to follow the Scottish government in paying the living wage to get people out of poverty.

Labour's shadow Scotland secretary Margaret Curran said the report "has shown that the Tories have completely failed Scotland's young people".

'Sustained action'

The JRF report, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland, found a rising number of young people in poverty and persistently high levels of disadvantage in health, education and work.

JRF chief executive Julia Unwin said: "Falls in child and pensioner poverty over the past decade in Scotland show that poverty can be reduced.

"But sustained action must be taken to stop a lack of high-quality work, and a shortage of affordable homes from trapping a generation of young people in poverty.

"All of us in government and local government as well as employers, housing providers and the NHS, need a shared focus to alleviate the impacts of poverty across all age groups."

The key findings of the report include:

  • Young adults under 30 are now at a higher risk than any other age group of experiencing poverty in Scotland - the only age group to have seen an increase over the last 10 years.
  • Child and pensioner poverty rates have halved in the past decade. The most recent figure indicates just over 100,000 pensioners in poverty, compared with just under 200,000 in 2002/2003
  • Better qualified people are increasingly finding themselves in low-paid work. In 2013, 13% of low-paid workers had a degree, compared to 5% in 2003.
  • People who work part-time, are low paid or lower qualified are less likely to get in-work training.
  • At its peak in 2013, almost one in six JSA claimants was being referred for a sanction each month. This is double the highest rate in the years before 2006.

Dr Peter Kenway, director of the New Policy Institute and author of the report, added: "Organisations across Scotland, local councils, the NHS and businesses are accepting a responsibility for acting against poverty and are making plans accordingly.

"The challenge is to turn words into deeds. Involving people with direct experience of poverty themselves is vital to this."

The report recommends more encouragement for employers to pay the living wage; better training for people in low-paid work and a reduction in the use of sanctions against benefit claimants.

Labour's shadow Scotland secretary Margaret Curran said a Labour government "would invest £1bn for more opportunity for Scotland's future - our young people".

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said the JRF "acknowledges the positive effects of the Scottish government's effort to mitigate the worst of the UK Government's welfare cuts".

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