Warning On Poverty Among Young

26 March 2015, 06:00

A generation of young people risk being trapped in poverty unless action is taken to tackle a lack of quality work and affordable homes, a new report concludes.

Adults aged 16-29 are more at risk of experiencing poverty than any other age group in Scotland, according to research by the New Policy Institute (NPI) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

The age group is the only one to have seen an increase in poverty levels over the last ten years, from 190,000 to 220,000 over the decade to 2012/13.

In contrast, the number of children, pensioners and people aged 30 to 64 in poverty fell over the same ten-year period.

About one in every eight under-25s is now unemployed, at least twice the rate of any other age group.

Almost half (43%) of people in poverty live in working households, despite those who are low-paid being better-qualified than ever.

A total of 29% of people in poverty live in privately-rented homes, with the average person in the sector spending almost a quarter of their income on housing.

The report found that in 2013 almost one in six claimants of jobseeker's allowance were being referred for a benefit sanction each month.

It concluded there has also been "little progress'' in reducing the gap in school attainment between children from deprived and non-deprived areas.

JRF wants more employers to pay the living wage, increased training opportunities for people in low-paid work, more affordable homes and better access for schools to attainment data.

The charity also called for benefit sanctions to be used only as a last resort.

Chief executive Julia Unwin said: "Falls in child and pensioner poverty over the past decade in Scotland show that poverty can be reduced.

"But sustained action must be taken to stop a lack of high-quality work and a shortage of affordable homes from trapping a generation of young people in poverty.

"All of us in government and local government as well as employers, housing providers and the NHS need a shared focus to alleviate the impacts of poverty across all age groups.''

Report author Dr Peter Kenway, director of the NPI, said: ``Organisations across Scotland, local councils, the NHS and businesses are accepting a responsibility for acting against poverty and are making plans accordingly.

"The challenge is to turn words into deeds. Involving people with direct experience of poverty themselves is vital to this.''

Keith Dryburgh, Citizens Advice Scotland policy manager, said: "We would also agree that the numbers of young people hit by poverty is worryingly high.

"The reasons for this are complex, but there's no doubt that the UK Government's austerity regime has hit hardest those who were already struggling to get by, pushing many over the edge and into poverty, while the support structures that are meant to help vulnerable people are not fit for purpose.

"The welfare reforms have had a devastating impact on many unemployed and disabled people, but today's report is right to highlight the fact that many people who are in work are also caught out by things like low wages, zero hours contracts and flaws in the tax credit system.''