Poverty advisor lists housing affordability among key recommendations to tackle inequality

Naomi Eisenstadt
Naomi Eisenstadt

Poverty and inequality consultant Naomi Eisenstadt has set out 15 recommendations on what more the Scottish Government and others can do to tackle poverty in Scotland.

Published yesterday, the independent adviser’s ‘Shifting the Curve’ report listed in-work poverty, housing affordability and young people’s life chances as the three areas which could be addressed to significantly reduce the numbers of people living in poverty in Scotland.

Over the past six months Ms Eisenstadt consulted stakeholders across Scotland, including people with experience of living in poverty.

Her 15 recommendations to the Scottish Government are:

In-work poverty

  1. Build on Living Wage Accreditation – a focus on larger employers, and on incentives, would be useful
  2. Encourage pay ratio disclosure as a way of tackling pay inequality
  3. Ensure childcare commitments focus on quality to improve outcomes, and consider providing a limited number of free hours of childcare for primary school aged children
  4. Make family flexible working more explicit within the Business Pledge, and consider whether approaches such as the Timewise programme could promote flexible working in Scotland
  5. Do more to ensure that people claim the benefits they are entitled to
  6. Make effective use of new social security powers but proceed with caution
  7. Housing affordability

    1. Build more social housing
    2. Ensure fuel poverty programmes are focused to support those on low incomes, and do more to tackle the poverty premium in home energy costs
    3. Be bold on local tax reform
    4. Life chances of young people, aged 16-24

      1. Carry out a comprehensive review of the policies and services relevant to the life chances of older children and young adults, with particular emphasis on young people from poorer backgrounds
      2. Reduce the number of government-supported employment programmes targeting this group of young people and simplify the landscape, to provide a clearer, sharper focus
      3. Ensure that the new approach to employer engagement in education is having an impact on improving skills for work of young people
      4. Do more to tackle occupational segregation
      5. Cross-cutting

        1. Ensure that public service delivery is respectful, person-centred and preserves the dignity of people in poverty: pre-employment and in-service training should include the importance of avoiding stigma and developing understanding of the challenges of living on a very low income
        2. Commence the socio-economic duty in the Equality Act 2010, when powers are available to do so.
        3. Ms Eisenstadt said: “I’ve been struck by the genuinely open and constructive approach that people have taken in engaging with me in my role as Independent Advisor.

          “The key message for me is that everyone has a role to play, local government, the voluntary sector, the Scottish Government and people in poverty themselves, who clearly have the best understanding of the challenges of living on a low income.”

          Confirming early action on one of the report’s recommendations, first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced £1 million of funding for up to six early learning and childcare trials to test different delivery models.

          The first minister said: “When I appointed Naomi to the role I was clear that she would work independently and be frank and challenging in her scrutiny of not only the work the Scottish Government was doing to alleviate poverty and inequality, but also what more can be done.

          “I thank Naomi for the work she has carried out and welcome the report that she has published today. We now need to study it and look at what we’re doing well and should continue to do, and where we can improve. We will respond formally to the report before the end of March and set out how we intend to take forward its recommendations.”

          The report has been welcomed by the Poverty Truth Commission’s Allan Young, who said: “Naomi has been actively involved in our Mutual Mentoring Scheme, where she was paired up with someone with direct experience of poverty. We are heartened to see that the issues raised in Naomi’s meetings with those with experience of poverty, have formed the backbone of this report. Her report shows that people in poverty are part of the solution, not the problem.”

          Patrick Harvie, Glasgow MSP and co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, welcomed the report and highlighted that even though the Scottish Government is restricted by Westminster cuts, the recommendations demonstrate that there is a range of measures available to reduce poverty and inequality in Scotland.

          Increasing affordable housing, reforming local taxation and tackling fuel poverty are long-standing Green policy priorities. The Scottish Greens will be calling for strong rent controls in the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill, up for debate in Holyrood today, and have consistently argued for scrapping the council tax in favour of a more progressive proposal.

          Patrick Harvie said: “This new report clearly shows that we can do more right away to protect people on low incomes from vicious Tory cuts, and to build a more equal, prosperous future for our country.

          “The council tax is a regressive measure that’s no longer fit for purpose. It’s time to replace it with a more progressive local tax system, that would protect people on low incomes and enable councils to raise revenue for vital services that are currently under threat.

          “Housing costs in many parts of Scotland are disgracefully high, and too many people of low incomes are forced to find a home from the expensive private rented sector. Building more social housing is absolutely crucial, but we also need to regulate rent levels in the private sector. The housing bill that’s up for debate in Holyrood is our chance to do that, but we have to make sure that rent control measures are strong enough.

          “Every year, thousands of people suffer in the freezing winter weather because fuel prices are so high, and there are simply not in good enough condition to keep warm. Instead of boosting the budget to tackle fuel poverty, the Scottish Government has decided to cut it for the coming year. I urge the SNP to reconsider this decision, and to make insulating and heating Scotland’s homes a priority.”

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