Now is the time - Challenge Poverty Week 2021

Challenge Poverty Week is a campaign to raise awareness of the impacts of poverty and call for change. People’s Health Trust is working with Poverty Alliance to increase our knowledge around the social determinants of health in Scotland and to contribute to changes in public policy which tackle health inequalities.

In this blog for Challenge Poverty Week 2021 Ashley Mclean, Policy and Parliamentary Officer for Poverty Alliance , writes about the impact of poverty and how we can help tackle it.

In a just and fair society, all of us could afford to live a decent life. We would have work that pays adequate wages, public services that meet our needs, and a social security system that is there to catch us when we’re struggling to make ends meet.

But the way our economy is designed means that, for too many of us, this is not the reality. Prior to the pandemic, 4.3 million children in the UK were living in the grip of poverty, and of these 75% live in households where at least one person works[1]. The rising costs of housing, transport, and childcare coupled with inadequate incomes is sweeping families into poverty and trapping them there.

Poverty has consequences in all areas of our life. Focusing on health in particular, people in the grip of poverty are more likely to have poor physical and mental health and have shorter life expectancies. This was highlighted during the pandemic where those living in the most deprived areas of the UK were more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19 compared to those in the least deprived areas[2].

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By taking different decisions about our economy we know that poverty can, and must, be solved.

In Scotland, this year’s Challenge Poverty Week theme is ‘Now is the Time’ because now, more than ever, all levels of government can and must use every power at their disposal to stem the rising tide of poverty. There is a significant number of actions that can be taken both at Holyrood and Westminster to loosen the grip of poverty on people’s lives.

As part of Challenge Poverty Week 2021, we are calling on the Scottish Government to:

  • Begin to take steps towards a Minimum Income Guarantee.
  • Incentivise employers to provide Fair Work and ensure that jobs pay at least a real Living Wage.
  • Embed at mental health workers and Community Link Workers in all GPs in Scotland.
  • Double investment in Scottish fuel poverty programmes, commit to delivering 20-minute neighbourhoods and prioritise and scale-up funding in community-led responses to climate change.
  • Fund 50 hours of childcare per week for every child under the age of 16, provide free bus travel for all people under 25 and on low-income benefits, provide free, good quality broadband to all low-income households, and redesign the housing system to make it fit for residents and the environment.
  • Empower our communities by giving people greater control over how money is invested in their community, at least double investment for Local Authorities to support the work of lifeline community organisations, and fund third sector organisations on a three-year basis.

We are delighted to see the hundreds of organisations from across Scotland already begin to get involved and collectively call on all levels of government to act now. Taking part in Challenge Poverty Week is rewarding and impactful. Whatever type of organisation you are, there are lots of ways you can get involved.

We are still asking that organisations get involved virtually, which can be done through promoting our messaging on social media, hosting online discussions, and emailing your MSP. You can read more about how you can get involved at our website here which contains a number of resources including toolkits, templates and more.

To get involved in Challenge Poverty Week or to find out more, please email our Campaigns Officer, Suzi Murning at To find out more about our policy asks, please email our Policy and Parliamentary Officer, Ashley Mclean at

Challenge Poverty week takes place in Scotland from 4 - 10 October and in England and Wales from 11-17 October.

Challenge Poverty Week Scotland

Challenge Poverty Week England and Wales

[1]Households Below Average Income: An analysis of the UK income distribution: 1994/95-2018/19. Department for Work and Pensions. 2020.

[2] Deaths involving COVID-19 by local area and socioeconomic deprivation: deaths occurring between 1 March and 31 July 2020. Office for National Statistics. 2021.