Addressing race inequality in Scotland: the way forward

A report from the Scottish Government's independent adviser on race equality in Scotland.

C. Poverty

27. Clustered in low paid work, poverty in the BME communities is twice that of white communities [2] . BME women [3] are paying the highest price for austerity, and BME communities have lower rates of benefit take up [4] .

28. The aim of the actions and recommendations in this section is to ensure that minority ethnic communities are not left behind in the significant efforts currently underway by the Scottish Government to reduce poverty in Scotland. At the end of 4 years, what we should see is a significant drop in the disparity in the poverty rates between BME and White communities.

29. The recommended actions are drawn from work undertaken by CRER on Race and Anti-Poverty, Naomi Eisenstadt's report ' Shifting the Curve', and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's report on ' Poverty and Ethnicity: Key Messages for Scotland'.

30. The suggested actions cover 4 areas:

  • Employment
  • Policy and Strategy
  • Increasing Income
  • Childcare


31. Recommended actions to increase BME access to employment and career progression are detailed in Section B of this report.

Policy and Strategy

32. The Scottish Government has introduced a range of strategic and legislative policy approaches over recent years, including the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the Child Poverty Bill. There have also been changes to advisory structures, such as the new Poverty and Inequality Commission and new Fairness Commissions at local level. However, to date there has been a significant lack of joined-up working between anti-poverty and race equality agendas. Naomi Eisenstadt, former Independent Adviser on Poverty and Inequality, makes it clear that the recommendations in her report ' Shifting the Curve' 'will not be successful unless due attention is paid to the specific barriers that some groups face'. My suggestions for addressing this weakness are as follows:

Action 28: The Scottish Government launched a new national Poverty and Inequality Commission in July 2017. The Commission's workplan should include a specific race and poverty theme. The Scottish Government needs to be prepared to listen to the expert advice provided by the Commission and take action thereafter.

Action 29: The Child Poverty Delivery Plan to be published after the passage of the Child Poverty Bill, should ensure that ethnicity is a key consideration and that actions are specifically set out to ensure minority ethnic children are not left further behind by any improvements in the circumstances of the majority population.

Action 30: The Child Poverty Measurement Framework, which is currently being revised in consultation with stakeholder groups, should reflect the different realities, experiences and challenges faced by minority ethnic groups living in poverty, recognising that improvements for the majority do not serve as a proxy for improvements for everyone.

Action 31: The Scottish Government should ensure that equality issues are taken into consideration in terms of reporting on progress against the targets in the Child Poverty Bill.

Action 32: The Scottish Government has recently consulted on the introduction of a new socio-economic duty on public bodies. The Government should focus, in its guidance for public bodies, on how the public sector could usefully integrate considerations relating to equality and low income generally and how different duties can usefully complement one another. But the Government's guidance should also go deeper and encourage a focus on intersectionality. The different duties need to encourage public bodies to think, and act, in more coherent ways about issues faced by, for example, low income minority ethnic women and minority ethnic disabled people. It is not sufficient to act on poverty and equality in silos, as this simply will not work.

Action 33: The Scottish Government should consider and respond to recommendations from Fairness Commissions across Scotland. In particular, it should consider the race equality dimension of their processes, reports and actions with a view to capturing and spreading the learning across all Local Authorities.

Increasing Income

33. There are a number of things that could be done to increase the incomes of people from minority ethnic communities who are living in poverty. These include:

  • Diversifying the income base of Pakistani and Bangladeshi families to offset the low worker to dependents ratio;
  • Increasing benefit take up;
  • Providing financial support to refugee families who are in hardship e.g. during transition from asylum seeking process to refugee status; and
  • Investing in the development of minority ethnic businesses and social enterprise.

Action 34: The Scottish Government should commission research to explore the feasibility of micro finance funding for certain BME groups particularly women, to develop work programmes/businesses. Any specific proposals should be looked at as one that sits alongside other credit availability schemes provided by the Big Lottery WEvolution Self Reliant Groups, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Carnegie Scotland, Credit Unions and Scotcash.

Action 35: Following research findings, the Scottish Government should work in partnership with appropriate bodies to develop a micro finance and business training programme for BME women's groups.

Action 36: The Scottish Government should actively promote the benefit of paying the Living Wage amongst minority ethnic employers.

Action 37: The Scottish Government should establish a Family Reunion Crisis Grant Fund.

Action 38: The Scottish Government should ensure that future funding and procurement arrangements for advice services' grant recipients include data collection and monitoring how far their services meets the needs of people from all ethnicities, particularly in the field of income maximisation and benefits advice.

Action 39: The Scottish Government should invest in a specific programme of support for minority ethnic small businesses and social enterprise:

  • Gather data on minority ethnic businesses to inform the Enterprise Skills Review and ensure that there is alignment and co-ordination between business development, skills acquisition and inclusive growth;
  • Provide HR support to all small businesses;
  • Support female minority ethnic entrepreneurship in particular BME women by developing a National Mentor and Networking Data Bank through the Women's Business Council. Consideration should also be given to the provision of alternative finance models (see Action 33 above), and sign posting services for access to knowledge and resources to help female entrepreneurs better manage labour market changes;
  • Host a summit with Entrepreneurial Scotland and other relevant agencies on minority ethnic employment and enterprise; and
  • Implement the Action Plan relating in particular to Strategic Priority 1 in Scotland's Social Enterprise strategy.


34. A recent report by Women's Budget Group and Race Equality Think Tank Runneymede Trust, points out that the people hardest hit by austerity, and the tax and benefit changes, are BME women. By 2020 they would have lost double the amount of money that poor white men would have lost. This is exacerbated by the problems women from low income families across all ethnicities have of balancing caring responsibilities and work given the lack of affordable childcare.

Action 40: The Scottish Government should set out a timetable to deliver greater provision of affordable and inclusive childcare for parents and children from all ethnicities; require childcare providers to take measures to increase the diversity of their staff and to make their services welcoming and accessible to all, including taking account of cultural and religious needs where relevant.

Action 41: The Scottish Government, in partnership with Local Authorities and childcare providers, should provide targeted advice about the availability of childcare which includes information about the educational benefits of childcare for under-fives, to groups where there is low take up.


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