It’s time we opened our eyes, poverty is everywhere
Poverty is defined as lacking the resources needed to live – with income being the main resource deficient.
Currently in the UK, it is estimated 22% of households have an income below the poverty line after their household costs are considered. Poverty is a complex issue to solve as it is often a result of many factors and causes include:
- Low-paid jobs
- Low level of skills
- Inadequate education
- High living costs
- An ineffective benefit system
Over one million people in Scotland are living in poverty (2017-2020). That includes one in four children, and the numbers are rising.
Poverty is often a life sentence
Poverty has very serious consequences and can negatively impact a child’s wellbeing for the rest of their life. It leads to food insecurity, exclusion from educational opportunity, discrimination, health problems, relationship problems, homelessness, and teenage parenthood.
A Millennium Cohort study showed disadvantaged children are 4.5 times more likely to develop mental health problems than their well-off peers and are at higher risk of respiratory illnesses and meningitis. It also affects their education. Studies show children who claimed free school meals achieved lower GCSE grades compared to children whose families are comfortable.
Due to high living costs and low wages, people cannot afford to buy essentials. Children raised in poverty are more likely to be abused or neglected. They are often stressed and worry a lot about their parents. They feel shame and are discriminated, and this may lead to substance misuse or/and having criminal record. As a result, it is more difficult for them to secure a job in the future.
It’s hard to break free from the cycle. Low wages and high living costs pull people into poverty, but social security benefits can help people keep their head above water.
Free school lunches take a bite out of poverty
While there is a long way to go in tackling this issue and putting place an infrastructure to enable children raised in poverty to move forward into more comfortable lives, the Scottish Government and local authority partners have reached agreement to introduce universal free school lunches for primary 4 and 5 children and targeted support during school holidays for all eligible primary and secondary children and young people.
Free school lunches have been delivered during term time for P4 children since August 2021 and will be delivered to P5 children by January 2022. There are currently no plans to extend the universal free school meals to high school ages, however it is important to note, eligible households can apply.
Article by Izabela, Link debt advice assistant