More than one in five children in Edinburgh lives in poverty, according to a new report by the Education, Children and Families Committee of the City of Edinburgh Council, with the number expected to rise “significantly” by 2020.
The report also observes a dramatic increase in reliance on food banks by Edinburgh’s families. The news comes despite average earnings in Edinburgh reaching £36,000, making the city one of the wealthiest in the UK.
Local politicians have reacted with alarm to the report’s findings, though both their policy prescriptions to tackle the crisis and the root causes they identify for it vary widely.
Cameron Stone, Conservative Councillor for Southside/Newington, attributed child poverty in Edinburgh to “entrenched worklessness”, the decay of the family unit, and dependence on drugs and alcohol.
But in remarks to The Student, Marco Biagi, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central, said: “Like many in his party, Councillor Rose perpetuates the myth of a distinction between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor.
“Edinburgh has the lowest [jobseekers’ allowance] claimant rate in Scotland, at only 1.2 per cent. In Councillor Rose’s ward, less than one in every hundred people are claiming jobseekers’ allowance.
Biagi also refuted the phenomena that Councillor Rose identified as poverty’s biggest causes. He told The Student: “The other factors he mentions are all symptoms of poverty which then make that poverty worse, rather than root causes.
“People do not choose to suffer relationship breakdown, or to get into debt. The coming cuts to tax credits by the Conservative government will hit working people on low incomes very hard, particularly single parent families.”
According to the report by Edinburgh City Council, single parents with two children live in poverty if they earn less than £258 per week. By contrast, single people must earn under £125 per week to fall below the poverty line. 22 per cent of Edinburgh households and 50,000 families meet the report’s definition of poverty.
Further, 6,216 people in Edinburgh and the Lothians now rely on food banks for their meals, according to a study by the Trussel Trust.
Asked is he believed that skyrocketing food bank use was symptomatic of a failing welfare state, Marco Biagi MSP told The Student: “Yes. In Scotland food bank use is now twenty times greater than in 2010.
“As a result of George Osborne’s hollow recovery food banks are now Britain’s fastest growing industry.”
“Accidents, long term illness, disability, the death of relatives, redundancy and other serious life-changing events can happen to anyone, no matter how “hard working” they are.
“The welfare state should be there to provide a safety net for these situations, but that has been eroded to the point where thousands of families in Scotland routinely rely on charity to eat.”
Image: Astrid Westvang