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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 (the base year) adjusted by inflation: it is a measure of whether the incomes of lower income households are keeping pace with rising prices.

Details drawn from the National Statistics publication ‘Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland: 2015/16’ reveal a complex and challenging situation.

  • In 2015/16, 880,000 people (17%) were in relative poverty before housing costs, an increase on the year before.
  • In 2015/16, 1.05 million people (20%) in Scotland were in relative poverty after housing costs. This compares to 18 per cent in 2014/15.

The report highlights that the rate of relative poverty after housing costs has fluctuated in recent years making it difficult to establish the underlying trend:

  • Income inequality increased in 2015/16. The top 10% of the population had 38% more income in 2015/16 than the bottom 40% combined. This is an increase from 15% more income in 2014/15.
  • After housing costs, 64% of working age adults in poverty were living in working households. While employment remains the best route out of poverty, employment is no longer a protection against poverty.

Figures specifically related to child poverty were no less challenging.

  • In 2015/16 190,000 children (19%) were living in relative poverty before housing costs, an increase from 170,000 (17%) in the previous year.
  • In 2015/16, after housing costs, 260,000 children (26%) were living in relative poverty, an increase from 240,000 (22%) in the previous year.
  • In 2015/16, 10% of children were living in combined low income before housing costs and material deprivation. After housing costs, 12% of children were living in combined low income and material deprivation.

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