Glasgow motoway and towerblocks

New research by Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows a sharp rise in the amount of people living in very deep poverty in Scotland.

JRF classes households that receive below 40 per cent of the median annual household income - £110 per week or less – as living in very deep poverty. Their new report published shows that, of people classified as living in poverty in Scotland, 460,000 were living in very deep poverty between 2017 and 2020, up from 310,000 between 1994 and 1997, a rise of almost 50 per cent.

This new Scottish data applies up to 2020 and does not reflect the current cost of living crisis, which has seen more households struggling to afford essentials as low-paid people’s incomes and wages have remained stagnant while energy and some essential food costs have risen by more than 50 per cent.

Of the increasing numbers of people in very deep poverty in Scotland, those most affected include Minoritised Ethnic households, with one in three people from a Minority Ethnic background in deep or very deep poverty. This is three times higher than the Scottish average.

Households containing disabled people in Scotland are also more likely to be in deep poverty. Of those in poverty, 43 per cent are in very deep poverty compared to 25 per cent in 1994-97.

Earlier this year, The Health Foundation’s comprehensive review of health inequalities in Scotland found that the widening gap between richest and poorest areas was driven by a decline in health among the most disadvantaged areas. The report partially attributed increasing inequalities to stalling incomes in Scotland, which remained roughly at similar level since the financial crisis of 2008 despite rising costs. Their research estimated that people living in the lowest income 40 per cent of households are almost eight times as likely to report poor health as the highest-earning 20 per cent of households. Scotland has the lowest life expectancy in western Europe – men in the most disadvantaged areas live 13.7 fewer years than those in the most affluent

Income is a vital building block of health. The stress from being unable to afford to adequately heat your home or buy healthy food makes people more vulnerable to mental health conditions, while physical health problems like respiratory and cardiovascular conditions are also more likely.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation, alongside the Trussell Trust, is calling for the UK government to adopt its Essentials Guarantee to ensure that Universal Credit is raised to a level where people receiving it can afford to heat their homes and eat healthily. JRF is also calling for the Scottish Government to introduce the Minimum Income Guarantee which would create a basic rate of income under which no one would be allowed to drop.

As the Health Foundation’s review noted, there remains an implementation gap between policy intent for reducing health inequalities, its delivery and people’s experiences which can only be overcome by sustained focus over the long term and building foundations that address and improve the building blocks of health.

Find out more about health inequalities in Scotland.

The Trust is open for funding in parts of Scotland until 3 May.