Scottish Youth Parliament Social Security Committee

‘Child poverty is one of the greatest problems facing my constituency, and being able to discuss genuine ways of improving social mobility for young people with the Poverty and Inequality Commission was fantastic.’ Huw Sherrard MSYP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane.

In April we joined the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Social Security Committee for a ‘Dragons’ Den’ workshop where MSYPs pitched some of their solutions to tackle poverty and inequality.

The MSYPs had already heard from around 100 young people who had told them that they felt that poverty limits young people’s opportunities, making it hard for them to succeed in the future. They felt poverty could also isolate young people, making them miss out on doing things with friends, and might lead to them being judged or bullied. Young people with experience of poverty might also get worse education opportunities.

The young people came up with a range of things that could be done to reduce poverty and inequality including:

  • raising taxes for the better off and spending the money on those who need it
  • increasing wages/raising minimum wage to living wage
  • having better/more employment and training opportunities
  • making the benefit system work better
  • introducing a Universal Basic Income
  • provide support through charities and targeted services

At the Social Security Committee workshop one group of MSYPs pitched its solutions relating to the minimum wage for young people. They argued that young carers and young people who lived independently should get paid the same as those who are over 25, as they need their wage just as much as an older worker. They proposed that this could be done through a top up from the government or local authority to avoid any unintended consequences where businesses might be less likely to take on these young people.

A second group pitched ideas about how to make sure children and young people from low-income families get the same education opportunities as other children and young people. They wanted to increase social mobility and ensure that children and young people weren’t disadvantaged because of poor quality teaching, lack of choice of subjects, lack of access to the internet, or because their parents couldn’t afford tutors. Some of the solutions proposed included schools offering free Wifi for students, providing additional support for those who couldn’t afford tutors and better school clothing grants.

The final pitch identified that many young people get support from their families when they go to university, buy a car, or move into their first home, but that other families can’t afford this. The group proposed introducing a savings account for children in lower income families, with a special interest rate, into which the government would pay some money. This couldn’t be taken out until the child was eighteen years old. It would give young people from lower income families a fairer chance and encourage both children and parents to learn about savings and to save.

It was great to get a chance to start working with the Social Security Committee and to hear ideas from MSYPs and their constituents which will help inform the Commission’s work in the future. The Commission and the Social Security Committee are planning to keep working together on these issues. We want to thank all the MSYPs who helped organise, facilitate and took part in the workshop.

‘Working with the Poverty and Inequality Commission was engaging and I felt as though we were listened to, as young people that means a lot.’ Rebecca Craig MSYP for Church of Scotland.

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