Key Focus for the Paper
In order to 'shift the curve' on poverty, I wanted first of all to identify groups with large enough numbers already in poverty, or at risk of it, to ensure that policy adjustments can bring about significant changes in poverty rates. This approach doesn't exclude, for example, disabled people or minority ethnic groups, who are often the most disadvantaged and may have additional barriers to face in escaping poverty. However, I don't intend to do detailed work on these groups at this stage. Suffice it to say that the implementation of many of these recommendations won't be successful unless due attention is paid to the specific barriers that some groups face, and the inevitable diversity of needs within, as well as between, groups.
I've identified two specific groups to focus on during my time as independent advisor:
- Those in in-work poverty - They make up a large group of those in poverty. In the most recent year (2013/14), 50% of the working age adults who were in relative poverty after housing costs, and 56% of the children, lived in a household with at least one person in paid employment.
- The life chances of young people (16-24) - There's no doubt that the first five years of life lay down the foundations for future success. But we also now know that brain plasticity lasts well into early adulthood. Increasing dependence on financial support from parents at this age increases the likelihood of intergenerational poverty. And research shows that unemployment during this period can have a significant impact on future earnings potential  .
And I've identified an additional area of attention which is important for both of these groups - housing affordability. As mentioned above, the gap between relative poverty before and after housing costs is large and persistent enough to warrant particular attention.
The report now considers each of these groups/areas in brief, and makes recommendations for the Scottish Government to consider. There are a couple of cross-cutting recommendations, too. Each section includes a couple of examples of personal testimony from people who are living in poverty. And I close the report with some final reflections.