International Women’s Day

Written by Katie Schmuecker

This International Women’s Day there are women in Scotland who are caught in a rising tide of poverty, with their incomes restricted by patterns of work and the division of caring responsibilities – whether that’s for children, disabled or older people. This simply isn’t right in a society that prides itself on justice and compassion.

Getting a job is an effective way out of poverty for most people. But in Scotland women are less likely to be in work than men, leaving them more vulnerable to poverty.  Over the last decade the employment gap has been narrowing, but there is still some way to go, especially for lone parents, disabled women and women from some BAME groups. While a job isn’t always possible, where people are able to work it can help them to build a better life.

Having a job is one thing, but having a good job is quite another. A big problem for women is the quality of the jobs they do – and how their work is valued. Employed men are one-and-a-half times more likely to be in full-time work than women in Scotland. This reflects the caring roles that women are more likely to take on, constraining the hours they can work. With part-time jobs generally lower paid, the risk of being pulled into poverty is greater. One in five female employees are paid less than the real living wage (£9.30 per hour) compared to less than one in seven male employees.

Social security should be providing a public service that can be relied on to help balance working and caring, and to top-up household income so people aren’t dragged under by poverty. With women more likely than men to rely on social security for at least some of their income, it is particularly important for them. But changes to the tax and benefit system by the UK government since 2010 have hit women six times harder than men.

The Scottish Government can make a difference by helping more women into work, driving up the quality of part-time work and supporting men and women to balance family life and working life. It can also help make sure social security offers people a lifeline when waters get choppy. These are live issues in Scottish policy debates. Over the coming years the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Commission will look to play its part as critical friend to the Scottish Government, scrutinising its plans and track record, and advocating ways to reduce poverty and inequality – for everyone.

Hearing from people with lived experience of poverty

We have commissioned Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU) to develop guidance for us on how we can involve people with direct lived experience of poverty in our work.

One of our first tasks as the newly established statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission was to develop some principles setting out how we wanted to work. During our discussion, it was clear how important hearing from people will be to us and how we want people’s experiences and testimony to be at the heart of what we do.

Involving people with direct lived experience of poverty in tackling poverty is becoming more and more common and important. However, SPIRU’s review of evidence found that the views of people with direct lived experience are more often used to illustrate a point, rather than to shape agendas or explain key issues relating to poverty. It also is not always clear what impact involving people with direct lived experience has on policy and practice.

It is our ambition to move beyond this. We believe that the best way of doing this is to involve people with direct experience of poverty right at the outset and to give them the freedom of telling us how they would like to work with us. Therefore, we are delighted to announce that Poverty Alliance and SPIRU will be developing guidance for us on how we can involve people with direct lived experience of poverty in our work. The guidance will be fully co-produced with people living in poverty

This work will complete in June 2020. Although the guidance will be tailored to the specific work of the Commission, there is likely to be a lot of learning for others also wanting to meaningfully engage. Therefore we will be publishing the guidance on our website along with a review of evidence on engagement with people with direct lived experience of poverty.

We are also taking this opportunity today to report on some work completed under the previous Commission which involved people with direct lived experience of poverty. This can be read here

Dignity and respect in public services

Here we report on work the previous Commission completed on what people with direct lived experience of poverty had to say about public services and being treated with dignity and respect.

At the start of the summer, the non-statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission recruited an intern, Mary Njoki, to go out and speak to people with direct lived experience of poverty about dignity and respect in public services. In 2016 the First Minister’s Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality recommended that the Scottish Government should make sure that public services should be delivered in a way that treated people with dignity and respect. The non-statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission wanted to understand whether Scottish Government actions on this recommendation were having an impact. In particular it wanted to involve people with lived experience in understanding the impact on them.

Main findings
We set out to understand more about how people with direct lived experience of poverty feel about dignity and respect in public services. The stories we heard highlighted how important being treated with dignity and respect is to people and how those instances where this is lacking have a lasting impact.

We also wanted to understand the impact of the actions taken in response to the recommendation around providing more training around dignity and respect in public services. As expected it was difficult to disentangle the effects of any training with other factors. However, what is clear is that those people who use the services cannot point to a significant change in how they feel they are treated by different public services. It is early days but we wanted to make the point that this is the crucial test of impact. Nevertheless, it is an extremely positive first step that there are examples of training, such as the NSPCC training, where there has been a very positive impact on the staff who have completed the training. We look forward to this filtering through services and the impact being felt by the people who receive the services.

Areas for action
We have identified a few areas of action on the back of this work:
  1. Ensure that involving people with direct lived experience in the design and delivery of public services is done meaningfully. We spoke with a lot of people who were eager to be involved and this is a resource that should be tapped into more.
  2. Training around the delivery of dignity and respect in public services should be, at the very least, co-designed and co-delivered by people with direct experience of poverty.
  3. Measuring impact of actions is not always an easy thing to do. However, it is important to consider the impact of actions on people.
The full findings can be downloaded here. You can also read more about how we are taking forward our work with people with direct lived experience of poverty here.

Child Rights and Child Poverty

Written by Professor Morag Treanor with input from Juliet Harris of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights)

Today is Universal Children’s Day and the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC is a charter comprising 42 articles that set out the human rights to which all children are entitled. It was ratified by every country in the world with the exception of the USA. Although ratified, the UNCRC in the UK was not incorporated into domestic law, which means that children’s rights in the UK have no legal power. The lack of incorporation of the UNCRC into UK or Scots law has meant that whilst courts have found some welfare policies to be in breach of children’s UNCRC rights there has been nothing that the court can do to provide remedy.  For example, the ‘benefits cap’, introduced under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, was found to be in breach of the UNCRC in 2015 but the court had no power to provide any form of redress. In Scotland this may be about to change.

Read moreChild Rights and Child Poverty

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