The need for the devolution of powers to create more and better jobs and to make Scottish society fairer has been highlighted again today – as a new report highlights the struggles of vulnerable and working poor people to make ends meet as austerity continues to hit.
The report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation finds that those earning the National Minimum Wage are falling short of what is considered to be ‘an acceptable living standard’ – with single people falling short by £52 per week, a lone parent with one child falling short by £38 and a couple with two children earning £74 less than they need. Each of these figures represents a large increase when compared to the situation in 2008.
The situation is even worse amongst people who rely on social security – with single people £109 short of an acceptable living standard, while lone parents with one child are £117 short and couples with two children are as much as £196 short.
The report also identifies three key policies to narrow the gap between wages and living costs – including taking action to boost productivity and to create more and better jobs for people on low incomes, encouraging employers to pay the Living Wage and to increase the supply of affordable homes.
Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
“This report is a timely reminder that so many people in Scotland are suffering under the impact of Westminster’s austerity cuts – and gives lie to the Tory claim that their social security changes are a route out of poverty.
“We already know that punitive Tory cuts are having an appalling impact on people who rely on social security to get by – but the fact that so many people who are actually in work are struggling to make ends meet to this extent shows the need for urgent action to tackle the scourge of low pay and in-work poverty.
“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is absolutely right to say that in order to tackle the gap between wages and living costs we need to take real action to create more and better paid jobs for people on low incomes – unfortunately this UK Government is clearly more concerned with its ideological commitment to cuts than with investment.”
The report's publication follows the refusal of the UK Government to accept any amendments to the Scotland Bill currently being debated in the House of Commons. The SNP, which has 56 of Scotland's 59 MPs and has called for Full Fiscal Autonomy, has accused David Cameron's Government of ignoring the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland by ignoring its mandate for more powers.
The conclusions by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation were published on the same day that another report by the UK Children's Commissioner to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child claimed that austerity was harming vulnerable children. The Children's Commissioner said the response of the UK Government’s imposition of austerity measures and cuts to social security has failed to protect the most disadvantaged children – and that falling household income as a result of social security cuts has led to an increase in food and fuel poverty amongst children.
Ms McAlpine added:
“The working poor and vulnerable people in Scotland can’t afford for decisions over the economy and social security to continue to be made by the likes of George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith.
“It’s time for these powers to be transferred to Scotland to allow us to create more and better jobs, and a fairer social security system. The people of Scotland voted for it in record numbers at the General Election – and for Labour and the Tories to continue to stand in the way is completely unacceptable.”
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on living costs found the following:
Compared to what the public say people need for an acceptable living standard, in 2015, for those on the minimum wage (all figures are per week, in 2015 prices):
• Single people were £27 short in 2008, and £52 short in 2015
• Couples with two children were £31 short in 2008, and £74 short in 2015
• Lone parents with one child were £4 short in 2008, and £38 short in 2015
People who are reliant on safety net benefits face even bigger shortfalls:
• Single people were £100 short of reaching MIS in 2008, and £109 short in 2015
• Couples with two children were £148 short of reaching MIS in 2008, and £196 short in 2015
• Lone parents with one child were £74 short of reaching MIS in 2008, and £117 short in 2015
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