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).