Under strict embargo: 30 December 2016
With new powers over taxation and social security coming to the Scottish Parliament, 2017 has the potential to be the year that we make a meaningful difference to the lives of people low incomes.
Over the past year, the Poverty Alliance has worked with people with direct experience of poverty to find out what their priorities are for the coming year and beyond. These included suggestions on the living wage, assessments on disability benefits, social security delivery and benefit levels.
There is a clear drive to do more about poverty in Scotland and we must build on this. This is a time to think about the type of Scotland we want to live in and to be ambitious. Scotland may not have all of the powers that the Poverty Alliance and others called for but this should not stop us using the ones we do have.
In 2017 important new steps will be taken by the Scottish Government that will help focus attention on the pressing need to take radical action to address poverty. Legislation will be brought forward to create a new Child Poverty Act, a Social Security Bill will be launched, a new Poverty and Inequality Commission will be established and the socio-economic duty will be implemented. We must ensure that all of these opportunities are taken to address the real problems that people living on low incomes tell the Poverty Alliance about.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said:
“As the Poverty Alliance enters its 25th year, we have time to reflect on what we have achieved to date and what still needs to be done.
“The levels of poverty that still exist in Scotland are unacceptable. With more than 900,000 people living in poverty, and over half of them in working households, something needs to change.
“We believe the new powers coming to Scotland provide the perfect opportunity to make a real difference in the fight against poverty.
“We are calling on the Scottish Government to use these powers to top up child benefits and means tested benefits for working age adults.
“While poverty is about more than money, it is ultimately putting money into people’s pockets that makes the most difference.
“We know that poverty is not inevitable so we should not accept it. Let’s make 2017 the year that we don’t.”
Nuala Watt, a member of the Poverty Alliance’s Community Activist Group who has experience of using the social security system as a disabled person spoke about what she thought the priorities for tackling poverty in the year ahead. She said:
“In 2017, we must continue working towards the improvement of social conditions on a European scale. Brexit has shown that in many ways we have lost our solidarity and we need to get this back if we are to tackle poverty.
“At UK level, there is a need to continue to challenge cuts to social security and the use of sanctions. We should also advocate for free government helplines. The absurdly high cost of phoning the DWP exacerbates poverty. Non-premium numbers could change this.
“In Scotland, we have a chance to re-think our approach to social security, and the Scottish Government have committed to designing a system based on dignity and respect.
“These values must be made meaningful. Too often interactions with the current social security system are needlessly complicated and often start from the position that people are trying to cheat the system.
“I hope that 2017 will be the year that public attitudes shift towards those reliant on social security, and that people recognise that social security is an investment in us all.”
For more information please contact Carla McCormack, Policy and Parliamentary Officer, email firstname.lastname@example.org