Over half a million people in Scotland are living in severe poverty, shocking new figures reveal.

An analysis by the Scottish Government reveals that 820,000 people in Scotland were living in relative poverty in 2012/13. Of these, 510,000 were in severe poverty and 230,000 were in extreme poverty. 10% of the Scottish population were classed as living in severe poverty in 2012/13 and 4% were in extreme poverty.

After factoring in housing costs, the true extent of poverty in Scotland becomes even more evident: 710,000 people in severe poverty after housing costs, and 500,000 in extreme poverty after housing costs in 2012/13. 14% of the population were living in extreme poverty after housing costs and 10% were in extreme poverty.

Severe poverty in Scotland. Source: Scottish Government.
Severe poverty in Scotland. Source: Scottish Government.

The analysis also reveals that working age households were more likely to be living in severe poverty than pensioners. In 2012/13, 10% of working age adults and 10% of children were living in severe poverty, compared to 8% of pensioners. After housing costs, 16% of working age adults, 15% of children and 6% of Scottish pensioners were living in severe poverty.

While the rate of relative poverty has fallen over the last decade, the proportion of households living in severe or extreme poverty has increased. This is particularly evident after factoring in housing costs. 50% of Scottish people in poverty were living on an extremely low-income after housing costs in 2012/13, compared to 36% in 2002/03.

The shocking figures expose the devastating impact of the UK Government’s austerity agenda and changes to the benefits system.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: “It’s a disgrace that so many people live in such severe or extreme poverty, but it’s an unfortunate and inevitable result of the UK Government’s failed austerity agenda and welfare cuts that are slashing incomes for some of our poorest households.”

Moving into employment is no longer regarded as a guaranteed route out of poverty. While moving into employment helps to reduce the risk of poverty, 44% of Scottish working age adults in extreme poverty lived in households where at least one adult was in employment.

Around half of Scottish children living in extreme poverty come from households where at least one adult is in full-time employment.

Alex Neil said: “With employment increasing and unemployment down, Scotland is outperforming the rest of the UK, yet the statistics show that a job is no longer any guarantee against severe or extreme poverty.

“That’s why we opposed cutting in-work tax credits and why the Scottish Government and its agencies are paying the living wage, encouraging other employers to follow suit.

“We have put tackling poverty and inequality at the heart of Government, through policies like the council tax freeze, free prescriptions, expanding childcare provision, while we are mitigating the worst of the welfare cuts, by replacing income lost through the bedroom tax or council tax benefits cuts. That action is making a real difference and we will continue to make the argument for a fairer welfare system.”

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