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Poverty and vulnerability

In the first week of our course we learned about the links between poverty and risk.

We learned how children and young people are more likely to be involved in child protection procedures in families which are dependent upon state benefits. We learned how children and young people are more likely to end up in the care of the state when they live in areas of deprivation. We also learned how poverty also holds particular risks for children and young people with regards to outcomes associated with education and health.

In a climate of austerity and increasing budget cuts to key social services these are worrying factors. Two definitions of poverty are used by the Scottish Government – relative and absolute. Relative poverty is where someone lives in a household that receives less than 60 per cent of the UK average (median disposable) income in the most recent year. Absolute poverty is where someone lives in a household that receives less than 60 per cent of the UK average (median disposable) income in 2010/11, adjusted by inflation: it is a measure of whether the incomes of lower income households are keeping pace with rising prices.

The Scottish Poverty Statistics Summary Briefing for March 2015, produced by the Scottish Government Communities Analytical Services, revealed that Scotland had a higher rate of relative poverty than the UK as a whole. The figures revealed that:

  • In Scotland in 2012/13, 820,000 individuals were living in relative poverty, 110,000 more than compared with the previous year.
  • The increase in relative poverty was due to a continued fall in incomes. In 2012/13, incomes in Scotland fell across most social groups, with the largest decreases for those on the lowest household income.
  • In 2012/13, low wage growth (particularly for those in less skilled employment), changes in the labour market, and tightening of eligibility and conditionality under welfare reform have resulted in lower average incomes.
  • Absolute poverty increased also. In 2012/13, the rate of absolute poverty increased to 17% or 880,000 people, an increase of 100,000 over the previous year.

Figures for child poverty in Scotland in 2012/13 were no less depressing. Between 2011/12 and 2012/13, child poverty rates increased by 4 percentage points to 19%.

  • In 2012/13, 180,000 children in Scotland were living in relative poverty, 30,000 more than the previous year.
  • After housing costs, 220,000 children were living in poverty in 2012/13.
  • The number of children living in combined low income and material deprivation in 2012/13 was 11%, an increase from 9% in 2011/12. This represents an additional 20,000 children, bringing the number of children living in low income and material deprivation to 110,000 in 2012/13.

Linking these statistics to what we know about the direct correlation between poverty, vulnerability and risk, in the previous step John Paul challenged us to play a role in resisting what he referred to as dangerous decision making and further cuts which will impact negatively upon vulnerable children and their families.

In the next step you will be asked for your reactions to these statistics.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde