Publication - Research and analysis

Public Attitudes to Poverty, Inequality and Welfare in Scotland and Britain

Published: 24 Mar 2015

This report sets out public attitudes to poverty, inequality and welfare in Scotland and Britain, from a range of previously published sources. The report focuses on Scottish findings wherever possible, presenting British data as a proxy where Scottish data is not available.

Public Attitudes to Poverty, Inequality and Welfare in Scotland and Britain
3. Scottish Attitudes To Child Poverty

3. Scottish Attitudes To Child Poverty

3.1. This section presents findings from a 2013 Scotpulse survey in Scotland on child poverty. British comparative data is only included where there is a marked difference in attitudes between Scotland and Britain as a whole. British data comes from the BSA 2010.

3.2. People in Scotland wanted child poverty to be tackled. Almost all respondents (98%) thought that it was important to tackle child poverty. This included 82% who considered tackling child poverty to be 'very important', and 16% who considered it to be 'quite important'.

3.3. People acknowledged that child poverty exists in Scotland.Fifty five per cent thought that there was 'quite a lot' of child poverty in Scotland, with a further 34% thinking that there was 'some'. For comparison, in 2010, 36% of BSA respondents believed that there was 'quite a lot' of child poverty in Britain, and 43% thought that there was 'some'.

3.4. Accurate knowledge of poverty rates was low. When asked to estimate the percentage of children in child poverty, 20% were about right (defined as between 15% and 25%). 40% each over- and underestimated the true extent of poverty.

3.5. Most people thought that child poverty had increased. 60% thought that child poverty in Scotland had increased in the last five years. During this period, rates had decreased.

3.6. Half of people expected child poverty to increase in the next five years. 50% of respondents expected that the proportion of children in Scotland living in poverty would increase in the next five years, with only 15% anticipating that child poverty would decrease.

3.7. Most people in Scotland expected that welfare reform would damage children in Scotland. Twenty-nine per cent 'strongly agreed' that welfare reform will damage children, while a further 31% 'agreed'.

3.8. Most people in Scotland thought that government is, at least in part, responsible for tackling child poverty. Slightly more thought that tackling child poverty was a responsibility of the Scottish Government (75%) than the UK Government (73%), while 63% thought it was a responsibility of local government. As can be seen in Figure 4 below, a wide variety of other agents were also seen as having a role to play in tackling child poverty, including people living in poverty (47%), friends of family of people in poverty (35%), voluntary organisations and community groups (30%) and local businesses (20%).

Figure 4 - Who is responsible for tackling child poverty, 2013

Who is responsible for tackling child poverty

Source: Scotpulse Survey

3.9. People in Scotland were more likely to identify individual than structural factors, when considering the main causes of child poverty. Despite three quarters of respondents believing that responsibility for tackling child poverty lay with government, only just over a quarter (28%) of respondents felt that the main cause of child poverty was a structural reason, such as a lack of access to affordable housing, or an inadequate level of social security payments. Nearly three quarters (72%) thought that the main cause of child poverty was an individual factor such as parents not wanting to work, or parents suffering from alcoholism, drug abuse or other addictions. Poverty was seen as a multi-dimensional problem, with on average more than seven causes of child poverty being identified.

3.10. The views of those who have experienced poverty are different from those who haven't experienced poverty. Those living in poverty were most likely to believe that structural causes were the main reason for child poverty. Forty two per cent of those living in poverty thought a structural factor was the main reason for child poverty, compared to 32% who have previously lived in poverty and 23% of those who have never lived in poverty.

3.11. People in Scotland thought that the most common 'main reason' for child poverty was parents' alcoholism, drug abuse, or other addiction. Twenty nine% thought that this was the main reason. And 87% identified it as a contributory reason. Other factors commonly thought to be the main reason for child poverty in Scotland included 'inequalities in society' (16%), 'parents not wanting to work' (13%) and 'parents being out of work for a long time' (10%). Table 1, below, sets out the perceptions of the main and contributory reasons for child poverty in Scotland.

Table 1: Perceptions of main and contributory reasons for child poverty in contemporary Scotland

Reason Main All
Their parents suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse or other addictions 28.7 % 86.7 %
Because of inequalities in society 15.9% 40.8%
Their parents do not want to work 13.4% 66.7%
Their parents have been out of work for a long time 9.6% 73.8%
Their parents' work doesn't pay enough 8.1% 57.1%
Their parents lack education 5.7% 54.3%
They live in a poor quality area 5.2% 55.7%
Social benefits for families with children are not high enough 3.9% 20.6%
There are too many children in the family 3.1% 45.1%
Their family cannot access affordable housing 2% 41.2%
Their grandparents were also poor: it has been passed down the generations 1.4% 25.4%
There has been a family break-up or loss of a family member 1.2% 54.2%
Other reasons 0.8% 8.5%
Their family suffers from discrimination e.g. ethnicity, age, disability 0.6% 25.1%
Their parents do not work enough hours 0.3% 27.6%
They - or their parents - suffer from a long term illness or disability 0.2% 50.8%
Don't know 0% 1.4%

Source: Scotpulse Survey 2013

3.12. A minority were well informed about what government is doing to tackle child poverty. Nearly three quarters (74%) of people in Scotland were not aware of the Scottish Government's Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland (CPSS). The majority of people were also not aware of the UK Government commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020 (59%). A further 36% were aware of it, but did not know any details.

3.13. Analysis demonstrated that awareness of these strategies and goals was closely associated with a more favourable outlook toward tackling child poverty. For example, more of those who were aware of the CPSS considered it to be 'very important' to tackle child poverty in Scotland at 88%, compared to 80% of those who were not aware of the CPSS.

3.14. The most commonly identified funding priorities for tackling child poverty related to meeting basic needs, after school care and mentoring. Survey respondents were presented with a list of policies for tackling child poverty and were asked which they thought should be the main funding priorities for helping children in poverty in Scotland. Respondents were not restricted to a number of priorities and on average, four options were selected.

3.15. The most commonly selected action was providing 'food and clothes' for children, which is consistent with recent widespread support for food banks. Other options selected by at least half the respondents included after school care (60%), mentoring services (54%) and community centres or clubs (50%).


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