Poverty in Perspective: a typology of poverty in Scotland

Sets out 13 different ‘types’ of poverty across three life stages: families with children, working age households without children, and pensioner households.

Poverty types: Families with children

The analysis of the households with children life stage revealed four poverty types:

Four poverty types of households with children

The four segments above show the proportion of low income households in the 'families with children' life stage that are in each poverty type.

This chapter now goes on to describe the households in each poverty type, explaining the combination of indicators that households face. Given knowledge of how particular forms of poverty interact for households, there is also discussion of how policy makers and service providers can reach and help households in each poverty type.

Families with children: 'Workless families'

Who they are

Members of this poverty type are predominately out of work or have little connection to the labour market. The majority live in social rented accommodation, mainly relying on benefits for their income, and around a third have poor health. In three quarters of these households, the highest income householder is a woman, and the majority of these women are single mothers.

'Poverty in Perspective' identified a group described as 'vulnerable mothers' (Wood et al., 2012). This group is made up of single mothers under 24, with babies or young children, living in social housing. They are the most deprived of all the child poverty groups in the UK, lacking consumer durables and behind on bill payments, and are low skilled with limited work histories. This group is likely to be very similar to the group of 'workless families' who are single mothers identified in this Scottish analysis. Previous research has shown that young, unemployed mothers tend to be at high risk of social exclusion (Campbell and Watt, 2016), and our findings support this. 'Workless families' tend to live in a deprived neighbourhood, without ownership of a car, and do not take part in cultural activities - meaning that many in this group may often find themselves stuck at home, or otherwise isolated. They also face a range of economic disadvantages.

Breakdown of poverty indicators for the 'workless families'
Breakdown of poverty indicators for the 'workless families'

Socio-demographic characteristics of the 'workless families'
Socio-demographic characteristics of the ‘workless families’

How to reach them

This analysis shows that, while isolated, the majority of this group live in social housing, making this an effective way of reaching those who fall into the group. Another effective way could be to look at those accessing Scotland's free childcare entitlement (currently 600 hours per year for all 3 and 4 year olds, and eligible 2 year olds), as 70% of 'workless families' have a child under the age of 5. Their reliance on income from benefits means that they are likely to be taking advantage of nurseries offering the free entitlement.

How to help them

The biggest challenges for this group are unemployment and social isolation. Unemployment and social isolation are often connected. Isolation can cause a lack of confidence, which can be a reason behind a person's worklessness. Furthermore, employment can help prevent future isolation.

Unemployment is a major factor for these families - 86% are workless and the rest are working few hours. Support for young parents to stay in education or training is important, but for many who have already left education or training, getting into work will be crucial. Not all 'workless families' would be ready for an immediate entry into work, but employability support - such as providing CV and cover letter guidance, application and interview tips - would help them on a longer term journey into working in the future.

A third of this group have a long term illness or disability. This means some in this group will not realistically be able to enter work, although many could with the right support. There are now a number of initiatives which are encouraging and helping employers to attract, support and retain workers with health conditions, such as Disability Confident (launched in Scotland in 2016) (Wilson and Muir, 2016) and Fit for Work Scotland (2016). Furthermore, some Health and Social Care Partnerships are engaging with employers looking to provide better support to their workforce (Wilson and Muir, 2016).

Families with children: 'Struggling to get by'

Who they are

The 'Struggling to get by' households are the largest poverty type, making up approximately a third of low income families with children. The UK-wide 'Poverty in Perspective' analysis identified a group of young mothers who were described as 'managing' - single mothers, who have school aged children and are sometimes able to work part time. Managing mothers lack consumer durables, but are able to keep up with bills and other essential costs through employing sophisticated budgeting strategies. Similar to that group, the 'struggling to get by' group revealed in this analysis are families who are mostly unemployed or working part time despite some having good qualifications. Half are single parents, and three-quarters are women. However, they appear to be at a slightly higher risk of financial difficulties than managing mothers, and suffering from poorer health - hence the different categorisation, 'struggling', in the Scottish context.

Breakdown of poverty indicators for the 'struggling to get by'
Breakdown of poverty indicators for the ‘struggling to get by’

Socio-demographic characteristics of the 'struggling to get by'
Socio-demographic characteristics of the ‘struggling to get by’

Like 'workless families', most of this group are living in social housing with few savings and no car. While the evidence does not conclusively show it, it is possible that some 'workless families' (perhaps those with better qualifications) become those 'struggling to get by' when their children get older. Although both groups have significant levels of worklessness, the 'struggling to get by' have higher rates of part time work. This may be in part due to having older children, but also no doubt due to their better qualification levels. For example, unemployed young mothers with very young children become slightly older mothers with older, primary school aged children and an increased opportunity to participate in employment.

How to reach them

Given the similarities between those 'struggling to get by' and 'workless families', many of the policies for identifying and addressing poverty amongst unemployed young mothers would also be effective for their slightly older counterparts. Again, social housing and childcare services (including those providing the free entitlement) are key outreach tools. Primary schools and employers could also play a role in reaching this group.

How to help them

The biggest challenges for this group are employment and childcare costs.

As with 'workless families', this group would benefit from employability support to help build their skills and experience and help them enter (or re-enter) work. An additional focus for this group would be to enable in work progression and increased work hours, given the higher proportion already working part time.

The childcare burden faced by this group must also be addressed as both a drain on this group's income and as a barrier to employment.

Families with children: 'Working home owners'

Who they are

As in the UK as a whole, the vast majority of households in this group are two parent families, who are employed, well-educated homeowners.

'Working home owners' face far fewer disadvantages than other low income families. Their incomes are low, but they usually have the resilience and resources needed to see them through hard times, so they do not experience the hardship often associated with low income. Nevertheless, their precarious position means that they are vulnerable to economic shocks.

How to reach them

People in this group are difficult to identify because they do not rely on benefits, and may not use public services or support often used by other low income families with children (Wood et al., 2012). They are not usually social renters - the majority are home owners - and are not found at the Job Centre or at debt advice charities. Hence employers are in a good position to reach out to and help them. This group may also be self-employed, so business support organisations could help identify them, along with credit unions.

Breakdown of poverty indicators for the 'working home owners'
Breakdown of poverty indicators for the ‘working home owners’

Socio-demographic characteristics of the 'working home owners'
Socio-demographic characteristics of the ‘working home owners’

How to help them

Policy interventions for this group should focus on prevention and reinforcement measures, so that they are able to withstand the pressure points and fluctuations they may face. This is all the more important given the uncertainty resulting from Brexit, which has the potential to tip 'Working home owners' into a more acute situation through redundancy, shrunk profits for the self-employed, repossession of homes and other crises.

Families with children: 'Part-time workers with low assets'

Who they are

The vast majority (91%) of this group are in work, yet most are only working a few hours per week. Over half are renting, so have no housing assets to fall back on, and the majority have no savings. This lack of assets suggests that they may have high outgoings. There could be various reasons for this. Any substantial childcare costs could absorb a significant amount of this group's income. Furthermore, it is plausible that a patchy work career may have led this group to incur debt in the past, the repayments of which could be another explanation for their high outgoings.

Breakdown of poverty indicators for the 'part-time workers with low assets'
Breakdown of poverty indicators for the ‘part-time workers with low assets’

How to reach them

As the vast majority of this group are in work, employers could be an effective way of identifying them. Furthermore, the majority of this group live in social housing, so this could be another avenue for identification. Childcare providers and schools could also play a role.

How to help them

The challenge for this group is stretching their finances in order to pay for significant outgoings. Therefore the focus of intervention should be on enhancing their financial management skills, and reducing their outgoings - particularly their childcare costs - as their circumstances make it difficult for them to save and tackle the deprivation they face. Members of this poverty type may not be at crisis point, but prevention is key - especially given the economic uncertainty resulting from Brexit.

Socio-demographic characteristics of the 'part-time workers with low assets'
Socio-demographic characteristics of the ‘part-time workers with low assets’


Back to top