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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: 2014-17 reveal a complex and challenging situation.

  • 19% of people in Scotland were living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2014-17. Overall, poverty rates seem to be rising.
  • The top 10% of the population in Scotland had 24% more income in 2014-17 than the bottom 40% combined. This compares to 21% more income in 2013-16.

The report highlights that the rate of relative poverty after housing costs has fluctuated in recent years:

  • It is estimated that 16% of Scotland’s population, or 860,000 people each year, were living in relative poverty before housing costs in 2014-17. This compares to 15% in the previous period. After housing costs, 19% of Scotland’s population, or 1 million people each year, were living in poverty in 2014-17, the same as in 2013-16.
  • It is estimated that 14% of Scotland’s population, or 750,000 people each year, were living in absolute poverty before housing costs in 2014-17. This is roughly the same as in the previous period. Absolute poverty rates have stagnated over the last nine years following a decline until 2009-12.

Figures specifically related to child poverty were no less challenging, particularly statistics which highlight the fact that significant numbers of children in working households were experiencing poverty.

  • It is estimated that 10% of children, or 100,000 children each year, were living in combined low income before housing costs and material deprivation in 2014-17, compared to 11% in 2013-16. After housing costs, this was 12% of children, or 110,000 children each year, compared to 13% in 2013-16.
  • It is estimated that in 2014-17, 65% of children in relative poverty before housing costs, or 120,000 children each year, were living in working households, compared to 63% in the previous period. After housing costs, 66% of children in poverty were living in working households, compared to 64% in the previous period.

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

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