Monday, 19 December 2011

Commissioner's involvement in recent Human Rights Conference

Back in October a few of the Commissioners from the Poverty Truth Commission took part in the Law Society's Human Right symposium on Realising Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the UK. 
The audio from that conference is now available to listen to on the Just Fair website.

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Poverty Truth Commission and the Church of Scotland's Economics Commission challenge the Scottish Governments spending plans

Last month the Church of Scotland's Commission on the Purposes of Economic Activity met with Alex Neil, the Cabinet Minister for Capitol Investment. In a similar way to The Poverty Truth Commission they challenged the Government's anti poverty policies.

Kirsty Connell, on blog Better Nation, recently wrote about the meeting, and the role of the Church and the Poverty Truth Commission in challenging the Government's spending plans. Read the article on her blog.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Kinship Care Group meet with MSP's

On 28th October the Poverty Truth Commission's Kinship Care working group met with Duncan McNeil MSP and Drew Smith MSP, with last minute apologies from Johann Lamont MSP, Jackie Baillie MSP and Dr Richard Simpson MSP. 

This group of Labour MSPs are keen to support the campaigns of Kinship Carers for the vulnerable children in their care to receive adequate allowances and services to enable their survival and give them an equal chance to children in foster and accomodated care.
Actions from the meeting included looking into setting up a cross party group on Kinship Care in recognition of that fact that Kinship Care is not currently addressed as part of Carers or Addiction strategies and need special attention.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Commissioner's take part in Human Rights Conference

On 21st and 22nd October Commissioners Blair Green, Carol Turner and Anne Marie Peffer presented testimonies of poverty and promoted the collaborative working model of the Poverty Truth Commission at the Law Society's Human Right symposium on Realising Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the UK in Chancery Lane, London.

150 delegates including lawyers, politicians and third sector groups saw animations on the degrading experience of going to the job centre, and on domestic violence. They also heard a story of in work poverty and debt due to the 'poverty premium' where life can actually be more expensive for those living in poverty. Most importantly they were challenged to include those in poverty whenever they make policies and projects about poverty.

The Commissioners were overwhelmingly well received and also gave a workshop on the method behind the process. As a result of the conference a number of delegates will look at introducing more participation in their organisations. These include Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, Manchester, who will be holding a series of poverty hearings in collaboration with colleagues, borrowing extensively from the PTC's model.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Commission's Co-Chair appointed as Chair of the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland

Maureen McGinn, co-chair of the Poverty Truth Commission, was yesterday (23rd November) appointed Chair of the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland

The Commission has benefited hugely from Maureen’s insightful leadership over the last two years and we are delighted at her appointment. We know that she will bring her many experiences of the Commission into her new role. 

Poverty Truth Commission meets with Minister for Public Health

On 6th October six of the PTCs Commissioners met with Michael Matheson, minister for public health at the Scottish Parliament. 

Civil servants from a number of departments were represented and the meeting was very proactive, seriously taking the Poverty Truth Commission's model into account. Following the meeting the Employability and Tackling Poverty Division will be holding a seminar on poverty in their department to include people in poverty and enable learning from the Poverty Truth Commission to be shared. The Health and Equalities division will hold a similar seminar as well as piloting a mentoring scheme for civil servants working in areas relating to poverty, where they will be mentored by someone in poverty over an extended period. We are delighted to have the support of the Public Health minister and others present for what we believe is a very unique and effective model of poverty organising.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Encouraging Glasgow's Health Board to address need for psychological services for Kinship Children

On 3rd October the Poverty Truth Commission's Kinship Care working group met with Ann Hawkins and Mark Feinmann from Glasgow's Health board to address the urgent need for psychological and trauma services for children in Kinship Care who have often been severely damaged by pre-natal and early months experiences. 

The meeting was very positive and it was agreed that there is a lack of trauma services and that statutory services dealing with Kinship Care could do with being better coordinated. As a result the North Glasgow health board will pilot a seminar on Kinship Care which includes a variety of statutory and third sector service providers with Kinship Carers to determine priority needs and encourage increased communication.

Monday, 3 October 2011

People with learning difficulties speak out

PEOPLE FIRST is the name of the independent self-advocacy and collective advocacy organisation of people with learning difficulties in Scotland.

It is run by and for people with learning difficulties, and declares its purpose as being to bring about change by:

1. The way people with learning difficulties see themselves – most of us have grown up believing that we are not much use; that we have nothing useful to say and that we can do nothing for ourselves or anyone else.

2. The way the world sees and thinks about people with learning difficulties – most people in our communities believe that, at best, we are “poor souls” and, at worst, that we are a nuisance and a drain on society.

3. The law and policy as it affects people with learning difficulties – our lives are often ruled and directed by laws and policies that we have had no say in. One of our mottos is “nothing about us without us” and we’re pleased to say that, these days, Government and local government usually tries hard to listen to our points of view.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Government to be assessed on homelessness

HOUSING activists will be among those speaking when the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council and Scottish Churches Housing Action host a meeting at the City Chambers in Edinburgh on Friday 30 September 2011.

Scottish church leaders have teamed up with the housing charity to assess the progress made by the Scottish Government to eradicate homelessness.

Scottish Churches Housing Action helps churches and others make practical responses to homelessness in Scotland by encouraging the development of affordable housing from redundant or underused church buildings

The meeting is to discuss if the Scottish Government is on course to meet its pledge of providing a home for almost every unintentionally homeless person in Scotland by 2012. More here.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A template for action

"I believe the Poverty Truth Commission provides a template for the consideration of social policy formulation by government at all levels. The recommendations made on the areas studied deserves serious consideration by the public bodies concerned." - Lord Provost of Glasgow - Bob Winter, Commissioner

Monday, 26 September 2011

Economics as if poverty mattered?

FORMER Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling has given evidence to the Church of Scotland’s economics commission.

Mr Darling was one of a number of experts to give evidence to the Special Commission on the Purpose of Economic Activity - alongside those who have direct experience of poverty, in accordance with the recommendations of the Poverty Truth Commission.

After giving evidence to the commission Mr Darling took part in a question and answer session with journalists.

The Church of Scotland set up the commission following the credit crunch in 2008. The 13-strong commission chaired by Professor Charles Munn will report to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May 2012. Commission members come from a range of backgrounds and bring specific skills and interests to the group.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

'You can't do as much'...

GROWING up in families affected by poverty has a significant detrimental impact on children’s quality of life and well-being and has limiting effects on a child’s opportunities and future life chances.

Here are two examples from people living at the edge:

“You can’t do as much, and I don’t like my clothes and that, so I don’t really get to do much or do stuff like my friends are doing...I am worried about what people think of me, like they think I am sad or something.” - Nicole, 13-year-old.

“I feel bad because my kids can’t have what other kids have... it’s not their fault... and I sit and worry about things like that which gets me depressed too.” - Jane, parent

Social disadvantage has an impact on every area of  life, from health and well-being, to education and employment. Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission remains committed to hearing the voices of those impacted directly by poverty in policy making and public debate.

Will the last be first?

THERE is currently a consensus that levels of inequality in Britain are too high. But how does this inequality and its related poverty impact on children and young people and what do the churches and faith have to contribute to making society more just?

That is the theme of a consultation commissioned by the Church Relations Department of the Children's Society. It will take place from 20-21 September 2011 at St George's House in Windsor. This blog will carry updates and information relevant to those working in partnership with Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission.

Friday, 16 September 2011

STV appeal raises over £1.2 million

This year's STV Appeal has raised £1,229,497 for children affected by poverty in Scotland - and the final total is expected to be even higher as the cash continues to pour in.

An hour-long TV special anchored by Lorraine Kelly and broadcast from STV's studios around the country was the culmination of a week-long campaign and fund-raising, with all the money raised going to children and young people in Scotland.

Those answering the phones during the live show on Friday evening included First Minister Alex Salmond, businessman Sir Tom Hunter and TV presenter Michelle Watt.

By the time the programme went off air some £614,748 had been pledged - a figure that will be doubled with cash from the Scottish Government.

The government has pledged to match the first £1.5m raised from donations to the appeal, which is in its first year.

STV will announce the final total raised later in the year.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Household energy bills soar in Scotland

HOUSEHOLD energy bills have soared in the last five years, Scottish Government figures show - hitting the poorest hardest once more.

The latest statistics indicate that the average household spent about 14% of income on gas and electricity in 2009, compared with a low of 8% in 2004. 

Jamie Hepburn MSP, who obtained the figures, says that families are already feeling the pressure at a time when the big energy companies are announcing large price increases. He declared: "This is a scandalous rise in energy bills showing even more homeowners struggling. These hikes are hitting already under pressure households - many households have already reached the limit of what they can afford. People are really feeling the pressure from power companies and price rises. The UK government needs to re-evaluate the energy market and start helping those in fuel poverty."

Averages have fluctuated between 4% and 7% since 1999 for gas and electricity. In 2009, 7% of income was spent on gas and 7% on electricity, showing a steady rise from five years earlier. The proportion of income spent on fuel had earlier increased from 11% in 1996 to 13% in 2003-4.

Richard Baker MSP added: "Soaring fuel prices affect every Scot, but they have a disproportionate impact on those who are on the lowest incomes. It is our duty to help the poorest and most vulnerable, who will be hit hardest by price hikes, through these tough times."

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Childcare costs pushing parents out of work

SCOTTISH families on low-incomes are being forced to leave work and turn down jobs because they cannot afford to pay for childcare, a new survey shows.

The research has ben carried out by Save the Children and Daycare Trust. Despite many parents cutting back on their spending, a third of those living in the worst poverty (defined as a yearly income of less than £12,000) have ended up in debt as a result.

With Scots parents paying the highest in the UK for childcare, Save the Children is urging the Scottish government to take action at the earliest opportunity. The charity is calling for an extension of free entitlement to childcare and nursery education for the poorest families in Scotland. More here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Making child poverty history

SCOTLAND'S continuing and historic struggle against child poverty was highlighted in a feature as part of the STV Six O'Clock News this evening - connected with the company's high-profile appeal.

Shelter Scotland and the Poverty Truth Commission were among those interviewed, with PTC's Elaine Downie pointing towards the damaging impact of deprivation on children at school, in the family and amongst peers.

Pioneer and visionary Robert Owen's New Lanark Mills social experiment, including the world's first infant school in Scotland, was a key part of the feature - illustrating the long-running effort to work for equality and to change and improve the conditions of ordinary people.

Owen felt education was vital. He built two buildings for the adults and children of New Lanark. They held evening classes, school lessons and social events. There were also bathing machine. Young children went to the nursery while their mothers were at work.

Catch up with STV Appeal programmes

THE 2011 STV appeal, which focuses on children living in poverty, features a variety of programming from entertainment and news features right through to serious documentaries, like One in Four.

Elaine Downie from Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission is on the Six O'Clock News tonight

If you miss anything, you can catch up with it later at your convenience via the STV Player, available on the internet. Sunday night's programme with Lorraine Kelly is already available in four segments, to make it easier to upload and view.

How benefit cuts hit the poorest

ALTHOUGH many policies and decisions about welfare in Scotland remain specific to our context and government, UK-wide financial and policy decisions in welfare - fiscal and otherwise - make a huge difference. 

The second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill takes place this afternoon in the House of Lords. Christian commentator Savitri Hensman, who works in the care and equalities sector, has written a piece which looks at what is happening to housing support in Britain from the perspective of those at the sharp end - very much in line with the perspective adopted by Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission.

She writes: "Especially in areas where affordable housing is scarce, many of us – even if not about to be displaced ourselves – have friends or relatives who are about to lose their homes, with all that this involves," going on to explain why the government’s programme of draconian cuts is so harmful. The whole article can be viewed here.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Watch out for Elaine

POVERTY Truth Commissioner Elaine Downie will be on the STV Six O'Clock News tomorrow night (13 September 2011) in connection with the STV appeal, which we reported on recently.

Elaine has a long track record of anti-poverty action. Back in 1999 she told the BBC on behalf of Church Action on Poverty: "Poverty is not an act of God. The existence of poverty in a great city like Glasgow diminishes the lives of everybody, not just the poor."

The week of programmes for the STV Appeal 2011 began this past weekend, and aims to support children affected by poverty across Scotland.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Empty homes contrast with housing need

AS THE MEDIA scrutinise the legislative programme put forward by the Scottish Government, attention is returning to the problems of homelessness and lack of affordable housing - issues which many who gave evidence to the Poverty Truth Commission highlighted.

Scotland has some 23,000 empty private homes, while  more than 160,000 families, couples and single people are stuck on waiting lists for social housing.

Campaigners and those at the tough end of the national housing crisis say that tackling the problem of vacan properties across the country is important. They want incentives as well as disincentives to change the situation.

The Scottish Government is talking of legislation to allow local authorities to scrap the 50 per cent council tax discount on empty homes.

Proponents say that this could raise an extra £30 million in revenue each year. The money could then be put towards affordable housing schemes, as well as taking away the financial incentive for owners to keep their properties empty.

Kirsten Miller, Shelter Scotland's empty homes co-ordinator, commented: "Councils also have to provide help and advice. A council tax levy is not going to make a huge difference. They need to reach out to the ones that are really stuck and really need help.

She continued: "The ones we are most concerned about are the ones empty for six to 12 months. Usually, something has gone wrong for the owners, or they are afraid of becoming a landlord, or someone has died and there is some uncertainty as to who is to inherit it."

"Empty homes are a disgraceful waste at a time when housing demand outstrips supply. With fewer homes being built, there is no end in sight for the tens of thousands of households in Scotland stuck on housing waiting lists," said Ms Miller

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A continuing challenge

"The Poverty Truth Commission brought together a diverse group including, crucially, people living with poverty. 

"All learned from each other, improved their understanding of poverty and developed their communication skills. I believe the Commission provides a template for the consideration of social policy formulation by government at all levels. 

"The recommendations made on the three areas studied deserve serious consideration by the public bodies concerned." - Bob Winter, Poverty Truth Commissioner.

Monday, 5 September 2011

STV appeal will focus on child poverty

A WEEK of programmes will begin this coming weekend for the STV Appeal 2011, which aims to support children affected by poverty across Scotland.

The programming begins on 11 September 2011. It will conclude with a live studio show on 16 September. Though the series will feature popular programming and celebrity hosts, it does not eschew serious issues. On Thursday 15 September the documentary One in Four will be shown at 7.30pm. This examines how 250,000 children are officially living in poverty in Scotland - one in four of the child population.

Elizabeth Partyka, deputy director of channels, commented: “We have a fantastic week of programmes lined up for viewers, mixing pure entertainment with a thought-provoking and often shocking documentary, which I hope will open the public’s eyes to the horrific extent of child poverty right on our doorsteps.”

The 'Big Launch' on Sunday 11 September at 7pm, to be presented by Lorraine Kelly, will highlight the major fundraising opportunities and hear from some of the young people and local projects who will benefit from STV Appeal. The Poverty Truth Commission has consistently argued that the voices of those living at the sharp end should feature in both our understanding and policy-making.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Poverty? What's that?

"WHAT is poverty? Worry, worry, worry. Everything is going up in price, everything apart from my wages. I feel physically sick with worry, and I'm so cold. 

"The housing [people] haven't repaired my radiator for three weeks now. I just sit in the cold and go to bed early. My hair is falling out with the stress. I don't see how things can change for me. I think this is the way it's going to be all the time. 

"I'm so sick of the way people treat me. It feels like there's a barrier in front of me the whole time." 

Marie McCormack

Friday, 2 September 2011

More children in jobless households

THE number of children being brought up in Scottish households where no adults are working has increased. Under-16s living in homes without adults with paid jobs rose to 145,000 (15.8 per cent of all under-16s) this year from 141,000 (15.3 per cent) last year.

The worsening situation for young people is occurring despite Scotland experiencing a slight decrease in the number of workless households over the past twelve months, according to figures released on 1 September 2011 by the Office of National Statistics.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance in Scotland, told the media: "These figures tally with the experiences we have been picking up from the organisations that we are working with.  People are getting back into jobs, and that's undoubtedly a good thing. But the rate of decline of worklessness is not as quick as we would like.

He added: "This is a long-standing problem, which is not just caused by the recent recession, so it is going to take a long time to tackle."

Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission has argued that those at the sharp end of poverty need to be involved directly by policy-makers and politicians in arriving at fresh solutions and approaches to the problem.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Welfare and public sector challenges

PLANNED welfare changes will deliver a £480 million blow to the Scottish economy, according to research earlier this year publicised by the Poverty Alliance in Scotland - a partner in the Poverty Truth Commission.

The Scottish Local believe however that the impact will be a lot higher through knock-on costs and a huge increase in demand for council services.  Speaking on behalf of the Scottish CampaignMatt Lancashire of Citizens Advice Scotland said: “We agree the changes in welfare will have a wider impact on the Scottish economy. But the main concern must be the immediate impact that the welfare changes are having on the people who rely on the welfare state simply to live their lives."

Meanwhile, public sector bodies in Scotland may struggle to make the required savings to their budgets this year, risking the future delivery of effective services, auditors are warning. An Audit Scotland report, Scotland’s public finances – addressing the challenges, finds that Scotland’s public sector budget in 2011/12 will be £27.5 billion. This is a drop of 6% or £1.7 billion in real terms on the previous year’s budget.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Community Engagement is Essential to help Frustrated Communities

Last week, in his blog and on website Ekklesia, Niall Cooper, the National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, reflected on last week’s riots in England asking the question ‘so what is to be done?’

He commented “Now more than ever, there is a need to move beyond the blame game; to engage with those who feel at the margins and who feel they have no stake.  There is a need to find ways to hear their anger (for to suppress anger is to invite further bouts of rage), to view the world through their eyes, and to challenge others to do likewise. Now is not a time to presume that we have the answer to their problems (and far less that they are the problem); but that through conversation and dialogue, through supporting and engaging with the ‘disenchanted and the disengaged’ in the local communities affected we can at least start to understand what hope does – or could look like – and what is be needed to build some sense of a possible future.”

This idea is echoed by the Poverty Truth Commission’s Overcoming Violence group who recognise that ‘solutions to violence work best if they are created and owned by local people or those affected by it. Empowerment of communities is essential.’ In the Commission’s findings the group challenged the local government and police to ‘move beyond the process of consultation and community engagement and to devolve real power (including budgets) to local neighbourhoods.’

Lord Wallace of Tankerness, former Depute First Minister of Scotland, Advocate General for Scotland and a Commissioner comments “Through the Commission I have become convinced that we are more likely to identify solutions to some deep-seated problems if politicians and officials involve those who experience the reality of poverty in their daily lives. That is the challenge to policy makers and those who deliver public services at every level of government.”

Thursday, 16 June 2011

New report shows extent of kinship care

FOR the first time the number of children in the UK being brought up by a relative instead of their parents has been revealed in a major study by Buttle UK and the University of Bristol.

The study, ‘Spotlight on Kinship Care’ is the first of its kind to state how many children are being looked after family members. Using data from the 2001 Census it shows that around 173,200 children were being raised by family members.

For the last two years the Poverty Truth Commission, which included Kinship Carers from some of Glasgow’s most disadvantaged areas, has been challenging the Scottish and UK Governments, Local Authorities, Health Boards and Kinship Carers to work together to improve the quality of life for this highly vulnerable group of children and young people. The Commission has worked hard to pass on the message that Kinship Carers should be around the table at the heart of the process, keeping it relevant and grounded in reality.

In the Herald on 16th June, 2011, the Poverty Truth Commission’s Secretary, Martin Johnstone, commented “This is seen as an ever-growing issue and I would expect the actual figure will be considerably larger when the 2011 census is taken into account. One of the really worrying things is that although the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the local authorities have all tried to do things to address the issues, not enough has been done collaboratively.”

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Listening to children on poverty

AS a society, we have stigmatised poverty to a point where nobody likes to admit they're poor - so says the man behind the BBC TV documentary programme Poor Kids, which has stirred up a debate about the subject across Scotland.

In his blog on the BBC website, Jezza Neumann writes:

By making 'Poor Kids' through the eyes of the children, we could uncover a tough subject through a section of society who rarely gets their say.

Before we even set about finding children, we drew up an extensive protocol on how we would operate with the children's best interests in mind.

I guess the true test of how well we succeeded was when the children watched the film and whether they saw it as an accurate representation of their lives, and they seemed to.

All too often in life children aren't given a voice or the chance to be heard. And all too often adults listen, but they don't really. I'm a dad, so I know, as I'm just as guilty.

Once we'd settled on which children to follow, it was a fascinating journey.

The most important part of the filming process was to gain a bond with the children. After a while children often open up to us because we are a grown-up figure who listens but never judges.

Read more here.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Concerns rise over fuel poverty

CENTRAL Scotland MSP John Wilson is concerned that more families will be forced into fuel poverty as a result of Scottish Power’s decision to increase gas and electricity prices.

Mr Wilson, who is Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament's Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, says that the estimated 19 per cent increase in gas and 10 per cent increase in electricity prices will hit poorest families the hardest and drive more Scots into fuel poverty.

The most recent Scottish Government figures, published in 2009, suggest that over three-quarters-of-a-million homes are in fuel poverty – where more than 10 per cent of the household income is used to heat the home. This figure has increase by around 50 per cent since 2002More here(Source: STV)

The Kirk's Church and Society Council first submitted a paper  (*PDF Adobe Acrobat file)  to the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum in 2008, stating the concerns of the Church of Scotland.

Politicians also debated fuel efficiency and support for low-income families in the run up to the recent Scottish Parliamentary Elections. Video footage of the discussions can be seen here.

(Picture:  Friends of the Earth)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

What kids feel about growing up poor

A NEW documentary called 'Poor Kids' is being shown on BBC One on 7 June at 22.35 BST. It can also be viewed for a while after then on the BBC iPlayer service. 

More than 3.5 million children live below the poverty line across Britain. This is one of the worst child poverty rates in the rich, industrialised world.

The programme looks behind the statistics towards the lives, voices and experiences of children and their families. It is powerful and moving, say those who have seen advance tapes. You can find out more here and reda some of the comments the kids are making.

Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission and its partners are committed to ensuring that people with influence and decision-making power hear directly from those living at the sharp end of poverty - and include them in the process of making change. That certainly has to include 'poor kids'.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Praise for Commission at 2011 Kirk Assembly

THE General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, meeting in Edinburgh last week, warmly welcomed a report on the work of the Poverty Truth Commission, commending its practical and people-oriented approach. 

Dr Alison Eliot, who was the Kirk's first woman moderator in 2004, and also a commissioner, has commented: "I’ve long been aware of the extra financial hurdles we place in the way of people in poverty – unknown to the comfortably off, with their easy access to credit. What the Poverty Truth Commission has brought home to me are the emotional hurdles people in poverty have to clear and the strength that can come from enabling good relationships to flourish."

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

BBC Scotland debate on poverty issues

THE BBC Scotland documentary series, The Scheme, has sparked a wide range of comment since the first two episodes were aired last year.

The Scheme is an observational documentary series following "the dramatic and often emotional highs and lows of daily life for six families living in a large housing scheme in Kilmarnock." It can also be viewed on BBC iPlayer.

Following the transmission this month of all four original episodes plus an update programme, BBC Scotland is hosting a debate to focus on the social issues which the series raised.

Among those taking part are Poverty Truth Commission members John Carnochran (on the panel) and also Blair Green and Donna Barrowcliffe (in the audience).

The programme airs on Tuesday 31 May 2011 at 22:35 on BBC One (Scotland only).

Although the programme focussed on families and groups of residents on two estates in one particular area, the themes which came under the spotlight resonate in communities all across Scotland, says the BBC.

Glenn Campbell hosts the debate from BBC Scotland's centre in Glasgow and it will feature the views of front-line people who work in similar communities facing economic and social challenges from across Scotland.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Poverty creates an 'aspiration gap'

YOUNG people from the poorest families in Scotland and across Britain fear that they will achieve few or none of their goals in life, according to new research.

The Broke But Not Broken report from the Prince's Trust and the Royal Bank of Scotland has found that many young people living on the edge despair of finding a decent job or buying a house. One-in-four from poor homes said "people like them" did not succeed in life.

According to the report, based on interviews with 2,311 16-to-24-year-olds from across the country, young people growing up in poverty are significantly less likely to imagine themselves buying a nice house or even finding a job in the future.

They are three times as likely to believe they will “end up on benefits for at least part of their life” and almost four times as likely to think they will “end up in a dead-end job” .

More than one in six of those from poor homes (16 per cent) say their family and friends have made fun of them when they talk about finding a good job.

But the despair can be addressed through empowerment, change and getting young people's voices heard - as Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission has argued.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Who decides, then?

ISSUES of poverty and inequality are much in the headlines at present. But Brian Wren's tough questions about policy, "Who wins? Who loses? and Who decides?" still very much apply.

PCT Commissioner Bob Winter summed up the "key difference" the Commission's way of working can and should make to how these matters are decided. He said:

"The Poverty Truth Commission has brought together a diverse group including, crucially, people living with poverty. All have learned from each other, improved their understanding of poverty and developed their communication skills. I believe the Commission provides a template for the consideration of social policy formulation by government at all levels. The recommendations made on the three areas studied deserve serious consideration by the public bodies concerned."

Monday, 16 May 2011

Child poverty is still a challenge

A RANGE of groups and commentators concerned with child poverty in Scotland have cautioned against false optimism following the release of Scottish Government statistics indicating a slight reduction in official figures.

Data for 2009-10, published on 12 May 2011, show that child poverty has fallen to 20 per cent. This is technically the lowest level since 1984, but still a remarkable fifth of the child population. In the 1960s and 70s, the figure typically ran at 10-15 per cent, indicating a significant growth over the past forty to fifty years.

Moreover, as the Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission has repeatedly pointed out - it is the lives and experiences of people with direct experience of poverty who should be at the forefront of public understanding and policy, not cold statistics.

“It is great news that child poverty fell during what was a terribly hard year for families and the economy," said Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). "But this is only part of the picture, she said.

CPAG also pointed out that the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that child poverty and overall inequality is likely to increase as a result of the government's cuts.

Other concerned groups include Save the Children, which highlighted the link between child poverty and joblessness in February, and Barnados Scotland.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The work goes on

SCOTLAND's Poverty Truth Commission has reported. Does that mean the work is finished?  Far from it!

Commissioner Blair Green describes his experience - and explains why "I'm not stopping until things change."

He says: "People said they were going to eradicate poverty when I was young - but what has changed? I remember when I was about ten when the Salvation Army brought Christmas presents round because we had no money or food. We had to go to my Gran's on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to get fed. It was only one meal a day, but it was absolute heaven, as there was nothing else to eat.

"People are still going to bed hungry in Glasgow today. I have always worked all the hours I could as my family couldn't have survived with me just working a 40 hour week. I work on average 70 hours a week. Friday used to be bad for me.

"Working 9-5 in an office, then 6-12 doing security at the Bowling, and then I would start a cleaning job at the chippy. That is just to survive, and put a bit away for the future. I can't change the past, but as for the future I want to make a difference.

"We're not going to stop after the Poverty Truth Commission. We're on the move. After this I want to say these things in Holyrood and in Westminster. I'm not stopping until things change."

Friday, 13 May 2011

Poverty is about people, not statistics

RESPONDING to the Scottish government's newly-released Poverty and income inequality in Scotland 2009/10 report, the Church of Scotland's Priority Areas Secretary, the Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, has stressed the need to listen to those at the sharp end of the figures it reveals.

He told Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission blog: "With the Scottish elections over, attention is now beginning to return to the key issues that face our country and its communities - not least poverty and inequality."

"This new data requires careful study and attention. But we should never lose sight of the fact that behind every statistic there are human beings. The lives and voices of those living with poverty on a daily basis need to be at the core of all our attempts to tackle the issues Poverty and income inequality in Scotland 2009/10  highlights.

"That is why the watchword of the Poverty Truth Commission has remained 'nothing about us without us is for us'," said Mr Johnstone, who is also Chief Executive of Faith in Community Scotland.

Poverty and income inequality in Scotland

SCOTLAND's Chief Statistician has today published Poverty and income inequality in Scotland 2009/10. The publication presents annual estimates of the proportion and number of children, working age adults and pensioners living in low income households in Scotland and the distribution of household income across the nation.

Some of the key indicators are as follows:

* There was little change in overall levels of poverty and income inequality in Scotland between 2008/09 and 2009/10. However, there were some changes in the proportions of different age groups living in poverty.

* The percentage of people in relative poverty (before housing costs) remained at 17 per cent of the population between 2008/09 and 2009/10.

* Over this period slight decreases were recorded in all three of the indicators used to measure child poverty levels.

* In 2009/10 the proportion of working age adults in relative poverty (before housing costs) increased slightly but, after rounding, remained at 16 per cent.

* Between 2008/09 and 2009/10, the proportion of pensioners in relative poverty (before housing costs) increased by 1 percentage point to 17 per cent. This follows a drop in this figure of 5 percentage points between 2007/08 and 2008/09.

* A figure for pensioner material deprivation is included for the first time. 10 per cent of over 65s in Scotland are materially deprived according to the new indicator.

* New figures measuring persistent poverty are included for the first time. Between the periods of 1999-2002 and 2005-2008, the persistent poverty rate (BHC) in Scotland fell by 4 percentage points to 9 per cent.

Source:  e-Govmonitor.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

'Hardest hit' have their say

DISABLED and ill people and their families are taking to the streets and initiating online action today (11th May 2011) to highlight the effect on their lives of cuts to the benefits and services they rely on.

People from Scotland and other parts of Britain will be joining the Hardest Hit March in London. Just as the Poverty Truth Commission is showing that poverty will only be addressed when those at the sharp end are at the heart of the process, so those living with disabilities and sickness say that their voices must be at the core of the debate over public services.

Hardest Hit, which is being backed by a range of charities, community organisations and action groups, says: "Many are living in fear of huge cuts to essential benefits including Disability Living Allowance (cut by £2.17 billion) and Employment and Support Allowance (cut by £2 billion). The total cuts will mean an estimated £9 billion loss to families’ incomes over the next four years, on top of cuts to many local care and support services.

"This affects people and families across the UK living with conditions like cancer, dementia, arthritis, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis, sensory impairments, learning disabilities, mental health conditions and physical disabilities. Their everyday lives depend on facilities under threat from the government’s plans to cut billions from support for disabled people and their families."

The march and online protest can also be followed on social network site Twitter.

A different way of working

OVER the last two years Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission (PTC) has created a model for working collaboratively which we believe is unique and vital if work on poverty is to succeed.

Just as we have learned from others, so we want others to to be able to learn from us. We have worked with a number of key organisations. But we are always seeking to widen the circle.

The PTC operates from the premiss that poverty will never be truly addressed until those who experience it firsthand are at the heart of the process. We would be very interested in speaking with others who would like to see how they can work in this way.

If you have read about the work of the Commission, are interested in our way of working and would like to discuss how your community group, organisation or government department can be involved, please contact our office.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Developing this blog

AS part of continuing work around the Poverty Truth Commission's findings, resources and networks, this 'group blog' is being developed as an improved tool for communication.

That means that you may notice one or two visual changes going on as you browse it. Don't be alarmed! The 'new look', facilities and material will - we trust - enhance both its usability and content.

Over time we will also be seeking to draw on more ideas and comment from PTC partners and supporters, of course. 'Watch this space'.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Time for the truth

AMONG the many recent reports of the work of the Poverty Truth Commission in Scotland has been an article in Third Force News, the voice of Scotland's voluntary 'third sector'.

Here are some excerpts:

After two years, the commission has created a report of its discoveries. Mindful that it could be seen as just another talking shop, the recommendations look to build on the evidence it has heard from people living in poverty over the last two years.

Because, it states, despite hundreds of other reports and government strategies, poverty continues to worsen in Scotland.

One recommendation is that civil servants could be sent to stay in some of country’s most deprived neighbourhoods to experience the reality of those living with little money.

The idea is that decision makers would be brought closer to poverty and its effect on communities in a fresh approach to tackling spiralling deprivation and the gap between rich and poor in the form of a new mentoring scheme.

Scottish Government workers would forge a direct relationship with those living at the sharp end of poverty, with hopes that they will spend time on the home turf of their project partners.

Commissioner Donna Barrowcliffe, a community worker from Ruchazie in Glasgow, called the process “revolutionary”.

She said: “We need to keep letting people in power know that it’s worth their while to listen to us – because not only will our ideas on poverty be better than anything they come up with at their desks, but because we need to be recognised as equal human beings.”

The Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, secretary to the commission, said: “One of the ongoing things that people have said over and over again is that the real experts on understanding the issues of poverty are the people who experience it. The rest of us can be incredibly well-intentioned but much better policy will be made if we are drawing on the wisdom of those who are experiencing it.

“In so many walks of life we ask the experts. In this environment, what we say is that the experts are those who live in poverty.”

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Poverty meets economics

ON Sunday 8th May 2011, members of the Poverty Truth Commission are meeting members of the Church of Scotland Economics Commission.

The gathering is being hosted by the Edinburgh Road Group of churches (comprised of Cranhill, High Carntyne and St Enoch's Hogganfield).

The scandal of poverty may not have figured high on party election agendas, but it must be high on the Church's agenda for what it wants to say about how the economy is working. At a recent hustings meeting, candidates from all four parties supported the Poverty Truth Commission principle of "nothing about us without us is for us". This event is a chance for the church to put that into practice, hearing directly from people telling their own stories of 'how it is'.

The meeting is also designed to give local people opportunities to feed their own experience and views into the work of the Economics Commission, and those from other parishes are very welcome. It takes place at 7pm in St Enoch's Church Hall (Smithycroft Road at the junction with Cumbernauld Road).

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Poverty Truth Commission closing gathering

ON Saturday 16th April over 350 people attended the Poverty Truth Commission's Closing Gathering at the City Chambers in Glasgow.

For the last two years, Scotland’s first Poverty Truth Commission has brought together two groups of people: people who exercise power and influence in Scottish society and people who live every day with the struggle against poverty.

At the Closing Gathering both groups of people reported on their findings as one group and shared the message of their motto, 'nothing about us, without us, is for us', through conversation, film, rap, music and spoken word. It proved to be an inspiring and challenging event.

At the event the Commission launched it's findings as a report which can be viewed at the Commission's website, Videos from the event are being made available.

If you would like more information about the Commission or if you would like us to send you hard copies of the report please contact the office on 0141 248 2905 or by emailing

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

An invitation to change

This was the invitation we sent out for our 'grand gathering':

"You are invited to the Closing Gathering of Scotland's first Poverty Truth Commission which will take place in Glasgow City Chambers (George Square, Glasgow) on Saturday 16th April between 2pm and 4pm (doors open at 1.15pm).

"For the last two years, Scotland's first Poverty Truth Commission has brought together two groups of people: people who exercise power and influence in Scottish society and people who love every day with the struggle against poverty.

"On 16th April 2011, members of the Poverty Truth Commission will share what we have learnt together and what we believe needs to happen now.

"It will be an inspiring and challenging afternoon. We will communicate through drama, film, music and the spoken word. We will share what we have learnt from one another. We will present our challenges to all parts of Scottish society.

"To register, please contract the Commission on or 0141 248 2905. Pre-registration is important as places are limited. You can find out more about the Commission and its members at"

Poverty Truth Commission Closing Gathering (16th April 2011)

‘Nothing about Us without Us is for Us’ You are invited to the Closing Gathering of Scotland’s first Poverty Truth Commission which will take place in Glasgow City Chambers (George Square, Glasgow) on the 16th April from 2 – 4pm (doors open at 1.15pm). For the last two years, Scotland’s first Poverty Truth Commission has brought together two groups of people: people who exercise power and influence in Scottish society and people who live every day with the struggle against poverty. On the 16th April, members of the Poverty Truth Commission will share what we have learnt together and what we believe needs to happen now. It will be an inspiring and challenging afternoon. We will communicate through drama, film, music and the spoken word. We will share what we have learnt from one another. We will present our challenges to all parts of Scottish society. To register, please contact the Commission on or 0141 248 2905. Pre-registration is important as places are limited. You can find out more about the Commission and its members at