FM and party leaders to sign anti-stigma commitment as shocking ‘state of the nation’ poverty report launched

March 17, 2011
  • Minister for Communities to address launch of Poverty in Scotland 2011 report
  • 9.30 - 12noon, Thurs 17th March, Ministerial address 10.30am, Engine Shed, St Leanord’s Lane, Edinburgh, EH8 9SH
  • First Minister and party leaders to sign "Stick your Labels" statement condemning language stigmatising people in poverty
  • 12.30pm, 17th March, Garden Lobby, Scottish Parliament
  • 19% of Scottish population still living in poverty, including 260 000 children – no real change since 2007
  • “Poverty must be key election issue” say campaigners
  • People with direct experience of poverty available for interview.

The First Minister and leaders of all the Holyrood parties will today sign a commitment to challenge the stigma people living in poverty face as a major new ‘state of the nation’ book, starkly titled Poverty in Scotland 2011, is published.

The commitment, stating that “Stigmatising people experiencing poverty is not just cruel: it erodes understanding, is socially divisive, and inhibits effective policy responses,” comes as the new report warns against a growing emphasis in popular culture and public debate on individual behaviour as the main cause of poverty.

With nearly one in five people still living in poverty (including one in four children) campaigners and academics behind the report are calling for a Scottish election debate that focuses on the real causes of poverty. Poverty in Scotland 2011, which will be presented to the party leaders today, identifies the causes of poverty as low pay, inadequate benefits, public services that fail to meet the needs of all Scotland’s people and a failure to grapple with inequality and discrimination.

John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, who are publishing the book in association with the Poverty Alliance, The Open University in Scotland and Glasgow Caledonian University, said;

“It’s vital that Scotland’s politicians at every level make eradicating poverty a key election issue. They must also back demands that the UK Chancellor uses next week's Budget to rethink welfare cuts that will make our poorest families even poorer.

But political leaders need to do more than protect Scotland’s families from vicious spending cuts. We need fairer taxes, a living wage, adequate benefit levels and childcare, education, health and housing services that are genuinely accessible to all if poverty is not to continue to shame the nation”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, called for today’s anti-poverty events to mark a shift in the terms of debate, saying:

“This new book highlights the lack of real progress in tackling poverty in Scotland in recent years. To make things worse we have also recently witnessed the re-emergence of the language of the 'deserving and undeserving poor'. If we are to have a genuine debate about how we tackle poverty it is important that we reject this language and focus on realities.

It is to be welcomed then that political leaders in Scotland are supporting the 'Stick Your Labels Campaign'. Attitudes and preconceptions that make the lives of people living on low incomes more difficult have no place in the debate about tackling poverty and acts as a barrier to creating public support for anti poverty policy.”

Gerry Mooney, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at The Open University in Scotland added;

“One of the clearest findings is that while governments have been active around poverty issues in recent years, much remains to be done to develop an effective approach. Looking at poverty in isolation from wider social and economic inequalities will only reproduce failed approaches as well as contributing to the idea that poverty is a problem of people experiencing poverty – and not a society wide issue”

Dr. John McKendrick, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Society and Social Justice Research, Glasgow Caledonian University, said;

“As an analyst of poverty in Scotland, I am at risk of becoming a bore. The persistence of poverty over the last four years means that there is a risk that the story of 2011 is the same as the story of 2007. In reality, it is much worse. The full impact of the financial crisis has yet to force itself upon the most vulnerable in Scottish society. What we need is some serious action to address the problem, underpinned by leadership, commitment and support at all levels and across the political divide.”

Notes for editors

For further information please contact:

John Dickie, Head of CPAG in Scotland, on 0141 552 3656 or 07795 340 61802

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance on 0141 353 0440 or 07766606454

  • Copies of Poverty in Scotland 2011 are available in advance. Please contact John Dickie on 0141 552 3656 or 07795 340 618
  • A four-page briefing summarising Poverty in Scotland 2011 is available here.
  • People with direct experience of poverty in Scotland will be available for interview. Please contact Sarah Welford on 0141 353 0440 or 0792 346 1638
  • The Commitment to Challenge the Stigma of People Living in Poverty in Scotland states:

- People experiencing poverty are often judged and blamed for their poverty. This can undermine their self-confidence, insults their dignity, perpetuates misunderstanding and creates barriers to escaping poverty.

- Individuals who experience poverty face additional obstacles which make it harder for them to make the best of opportunities which most of us take for granted, but the efforts they make to support themselves and their families are often ignored.

- People cope as best they can with very scarce resources, despite prejudices and stereotypes that paint them as lazy and undeserving

- Stigmatising people experiencing poverty is not just cruel: it erodes understanding, is socially divisive, and inhibits effective policy responses.

- There is an urgent need to raise awareness about the negative effects of the stigmatization of people in poverty in Scotland, and challenge prejudiced attitudes. This is essential for tackling poverty and ensuring dignity for everyone.

- I join all those who care about the sustainability of our communities in calling for concerted action from all sections of society to end the stigmatization of people in poverty in Scotland