Do you belong to the group that assumes living in Scotland is affordable? With recent announcements in the Autumn Statement and the surge in energy price caps, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) presented a report in the House of Commons. It highlights the dire impact of the cost of the living crisis on social housing tenants, revealing unparalleled hardship. Among these challenging circumstances, the present article seeks to explore an answer to the question, Is it cheap to live in Scotland?
The increasing trend of poverty among working people
Is it cheap to live in Scotland? Addressing this inquiry, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRT) highlighted a concerning trend of rising poverty among working individuals, citing a 10% segment enduring consistently low wages. The most vulnerable groups were identified as women and ethnic minorities, while statistics revealed that 60% of impoverished children had at least one working parent. The charity delved into categories like ‘relative poverty,’ ‘very deep poverty,’ and ‘in-work poverty’ specifically within Scotland.
Very deep poverty among the Scots
In the latest JRT State of the Nation report, more than one million people, including 250,000 children, live in relative poverty. The 490,000 people in extreme poverty are almost one in 10 people in Scotland, an increase of 300,000 since the last report in March. People from an ethnic minority background experienced rates of workplace poverty more than three times the rate for white workers, while 70% of those trapped in persistently low pay were women and another 70% were single.
The impact of housing costs on the increase in poverty
Despite the presence of a working family member, the rise of “in-work” poverty persists. Nearly three-quarters of households have at least one individual employed in retail, hospitality, health and social care, administrative and support services, or manufacturing. Housing expenses emerged as a significant factor, compelling 110,000 individuals from working-class families into poverty due to housing costs outweighing their income, resulting in an inability to break free from poverty despite having an income.
There is a deep gap between wages and the cost of living
The Real Living Wage, £10.90 an hour, is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation based on what employees and their families need to live. The national living wage – currently £10.42 an hour but due to rise to £11 from next April – is the lowest that workers aged 23 and over can be paid per hour. Single parents, disabled people, and carers often find themselves trapped in low wages.
Denial of the cost of living crisis by the UK government
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRT) criticised the UK government for disregarding the cost of living crisis. While suggesting increased funding for Scotland’s children to alleviate child poverty, the foundation cautioned that meeting the 2030/31 targets would only be achievable with substantial long-term strategies outlined by the Scottish Government. Chris Birt, the associate director for Scotland at JRF, expressed concern that policymakers were unwittingly heading toward another harsh winter without proactive action.
The main reasons for the failure to reduce poverty
One of the main reasons is the failure of work to provide a secure path out of poverty, especially for women. There are things that governments can and should do, but businesses need to engage with their workforce to ensure that employees can secure an income that will support them. A UK government spokesman said it had raised the living wage to record levels. They said: “The government’s priorities are clear – the best way to help people in Scotland and across the United Kingdom with the cost of living is by driving down inflation and growing our economy.”
Scottish Government invests £3 billion to reduce poverty
Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the Scottish Government invested £3 billion in policies to tackle poverty. “Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm is one of three critical missions for the Government. We know poverty doesn’t affect everyone equally, and that is why we continue to have a particular focus on supporting women, disabled people, racialised minorities, and children from our six priority family groups,” she said. She added that 316,000 children have benefited from the £25-a-week Scottish Child Payment since the end of June.
Request for immediate reform of the Social Security system
One of the biggest drivers of deprivation has been the high cost of food and energy. SFHA has called on the UK government to urgently reform the social security system and support social tenants by directly intervening in energy costs. The housing body has also said that the UK government should introduce the social energy tariff, a discounted energy bill rate, to protect vulnerable customers and prevent them from being disconnected.
The problems of many tenants in Scotland
More than 60,000 people across Scotland are out of poverty because of social rent, research shows. Recent figures show that 30,000 people in the privately rented sector would be lifted out of poverty entirely if they rented from a social landlord instead. As well as the severe financial implications of the cost of living crisis for Scotland’s social tenants, the report also found far-reaching effects on physical and mental health. Almost 9 in 10 tenants surveyed found the crisis had hurt their health, and two-thirds said their mental health had worsened.
Exclusion of meals by Scottish tenants
Almost 1 in 2 tenants admitted to skipping meals, with the majority also cutting back on fruit and vegetables. Those with specialised needs are also severely affected. Some tenants with diabetes are unable to afford the food they need to manage their condition, while others who require specialised medical equipment cannot afford to power their devices.
Scots exposed to economic shocks
By this point, you likely grasp the response to the query: “Is it cheap to live in Scotland?” Within a grim economic landscape, residents in Scotland’s social housing have resorted to drastic measures, such as skipping meals, reducing energy usage, and even limiting visits from loved ones, all in an effort to manage their finances. A significant majority of tenants report feeling worse off compared to the previous year. Over a quarter of Scotland’s populace resides in homes rented from social landlords. Despite housing association rents being half the cost of the private rented sector, many social tenants contend with lower incomes and heightened susceptibility to economic fluctuations.