The percentage of households falling below society's minimum standard of living has increased from 14% to 33% over the last 30 years, despite the size of the economy doubling. This is one of the stark findings from the largest study of poverty and deprivation ever conducted in the UK, involving researchers from Heriot-Watt University.
It is worrying that, in the 21st Century, more than 40% of households who want to use meals on wheels, evening classes, museums, youth clubs, citizens' advice or special transport cannot do so due to unavailability, unaffordability or inadequacy
The Poverty and Social Exclusion project
The survey also shows that there is slightly less poverty in Scotland than in the rest of the UK; 18 percent of children and adults in Scotland were poor at the end of 2012 compared with 22 per cent in the rest of the UK. People were regarded as poor if they had both a low income and were also 'multiply deprived' - suffering from three or more deprivations such as lack of food, heating and clothing due to a lack of money.
When comparing Scottish living standards with the minimum standards which the public thinks everyone should have, the report found that:
- almost one million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions
- 800,000 people are too poor to engage in common social activities
- over a quarter of a million children and adults aren't properly fed.
The survey shows that people in Scotland have the same view of what the minimum standard of living should be as those in the rest of the UK.
The Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), has shown that even full-time work is not always sufficient to escape from poverty.
Experts will look at trends over the past 30 years and discuss how best to tackle the problems at a conference on Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland and the UK which begins in Edinburgh on 20 August, opened by the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP. The conference has been organised jointly by the PSE research team and the Scottish Government and is funded by the Scottish Government.
Researchers from Heriot-Watt University, the University of Bristol, the Open University, Queen's University Belfast, University of Glasgow, University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, University of York, the National Centre for Social Research and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency found that, in Scotland:
- Over 400,000 adults go without essential clothing.
- More than 200,000 children live in homes that are damp.
- Almost one in three people (30%) cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in the winter.
- Around 350,000 children live in cold homes in winter and 50,000 children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home.
- Almost one in four adults have incomes below what they consider is needed to avoid poverty.
- One in every eight (13%) adults in paid work is poor.
- One in five adults have had to borrow in the last year to pay for day to day needs.
Professor Glen Bramley, from Heriot-Watt University, said: "It is worrying that, in the 21st Century, more than 40% of households who want to use meals on wheels, evening classes, museums, youth clubs, citizens' advice or special transport cannot do so due to unavailability, unaffordability or inadequacy."
Professor David Gordon, from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, said: "The UK's Coalition Government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed. The available high quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening."
Far more households in the UK are in arrears on their household bills in 2012 (21%) than at the time of the last PSE survey in 1999 (14%). The most common bills in arrears now are utility bills, council tax and mortgage/rent.