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Plea for action as study finds a million Scots classed as poor

ALMOST one million people in Scotland cannot afford to live in adequate housing conditions while 30,000 children have parents who do not have enough money to properly feed them, a new study has found.

The Poverty and Social E­xclusion in the United Kingdom project also revealed that 800,000 Scots were too poor to participate in basic social activities, more than 400,000 adults do without essential clothing and almost one-third cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in the winter.

The UK Government was largely blamed, with Nick Bailey, a professor in urban studies at Glasgow University, saying Westminster was continuing to ignore labour market problems and did not have adequate policies to address the worsening issue.

However, academics and poverty campaigners said the Scottish Government also needed to do more to tackle inequality.

Across the UK, the percentage of households below what the public considered a minimum standard of living has risen from 14 per cent to 33 per cent over the last 30 years, despite the size of the economy doubling, indicating the gap between rich and poor is increasing.

The authors said the notion poverty is caused by "shirking rather than striving" was a myth. The majority of children in deprivation come from small families with at least one parent in work.

The results, which also revealed more than 200,000 Scottish children live in homes that are damp and 13 per cent of adults in paid work are classed as poor, were described as extremely concerning by the Poverty Alliance.

The charity's director, Peter Kelly, added: "It should not be the case that, in 21st century Scotland, one in four adults has skimped on their own food to ensure others in the household eat. The fact that 30,000 children in Scotland live in families who cannot afford to feed them properly is a national disgrace.

"Both Governments need to do more to tackle poverty now, including raising benefit levels and further promotion of the Living Wage".

The results are to be discussed at a conference in Edinburgh today which will be opened by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. They are based on two surveys, carried out in 2012, examining what people considered minimum living standards and the reality.

The last Poverty and Social Exclusion survey was carried out in 1999, with the latest study including work from researchers at Heriot-Watt University and Glasgow University. It has been described as the largest study of poverty and deprivation ever conducted in the UK.

It was found that Scotland performed marginally better than the UK in terms of housing conditions, although 63 per cent of poor homes reported problems in the area, compared to 14 per cent of households that were not poor.

A total of 18 per cent of children and adults in Scotland were poor, compared to 22 per cent across Britain. People were classed as poor if they had a low income and suffered from three or more deprivations, such as a lack of food, heating or clothing.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Our own figures suggest that one million people, including 220,000 children, are living in relative poverty after housing costs. The results of the survey only serves to reinforce the scale of the problem.

"Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world and there is no reason for us to live in a society where there is such a difference in living standards between the richest and poorest."

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "We are making the welfare system affordable for the long-term while supporting the living standards of poor families by freezing fuel duty, increasing personal tax allowance and cutting income tax for those on the minimum wage by almost two-thirds."

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