Responding to the report, Anela Anwar, Convenor of the Poverty Alliance, said:
“This report lays bare the scandalous reality of poverty in the UK. Our social security system should be an anchor that helps us stay afloat during difficult times. But as the report makes clear, the introduction of Universal Credit, the benefits freeze and the punitive sanctions regime have pulled people into poverty. The report also highlights the problem of in-work poverty, with low pay and insecure work keeping many trapped on low incomes. All of these problems disproportionately impact women, who are paid less than men and are more likely to have childcare responsibilities; something too often ignored by policy-makers. While the bulk of the policies driving poverty originate from the UK Government, the Scottish Government can make more ambitious use of its powers, for example by bringing forward the introduction of an income supplement to lift families out of poverty.”
Jamie Clark, Community Activist from Ruchazie, Glasgow, was one of the people Philip Alston met when he visited Glasgow in November. Jamie commented:
“As someone who has years of experience raising a family on a low income, the eye-watering findings in this report reflect the reality of the life I see day in day out. The biggest problem in my community is Universal Credit and the outrageous waiting time to receive it. I’ve seen people get into two months’ rent arrears while they wait eight weeks for their first payment. During that time they have been threatened with legal action by their housing provider. I know from personal experience the impact it has on your mental health and family life when you live in fear of being evicted because you can’t pay the rent.
“As a parent, living on a low income means having to say no to a lot of things like taking the kids for a swim or to the pictures, and children often get bullied if they don’t have the right clothes. Living in poverty is like being stuck in the middle of spider’s web with no escape route. You can climb further up the web to try and get out but something keeps dragging you back. Low pay, insecure work, zero hours contracts and a punitive social security system make it very difficult to escape. That’s the trap of poverty. If we want to live in a decent society where we care for each other, then something urgently has to change. As a first step, the UK Government should end the waiting time for Universal Credit and overhaul the punitive sanctions regime.”