Challenging Poverty: October 2022 Director’s Blog

Today marks the start of Challenge Poverty week, which is organised by the Poverty Alliance, a network of Scottish organisations and individuals working together to end poverty.

The aim of the week is to highlight the reality of poverty, showcase solutions and increase public support for action to solve poverty.

With this in mind, I wanted to use this month’s blog to talk about what we are doing at Glasgow City Region.

Poverty, and in particular child poverty, is a complex problem and there are a range of different measures we can use to understand and quantify it. Key metrics we use at Glasgow City Region include the percentage of Households in Fuel Poverty (61.1%) and the Child Poverty Rate after Housing Costs (22.7%).

The first thing to say is that tackling poverty is a key policy priority for us, particularly in light of the cost of living crisis which is adding further and greater pressure, and putting more people and families into poverty. It needs to be the focus of everything we do.

At the September Regional Economic Partnership meeting, which includes the eight local Chief Executives, representatives from the UK and Scottish Governments and key government agencies, a presentation on tackling child poverty was followed by a discussion on what additional collective action we can take across the Region.

Economic factors are the biggest determinants of population health and inequality. Work we are doing at a Regional level has the potential to impact on the first two of the three main determinants of poverty which are income from employment, costs of living and income from social security.

We know from our experience with the City Deal that with deliberate action in place, we can have a positive impact on tackling inequality. But it requires a concerted effort. For example, policies introduced through the Region’s Sustainable Procurement Strategy commit suppliers delivering City Deal contracts to delivering a range of community benefits relevant to their contract. So far more than 270 residents have benefitted from employment, skills and training opportunities. Of these over 170 residents from targeted priority groups have secured new entrant, graduate or apprenticeship opportunities.

We are looking afresh at the 12 programmes from our Regional Economic Strategy through a child poverty lens and will assess the likely health and wellbeing impacts to identify specific elements that can be built into these programmes. For example, for targeted groups or localities introducing support around transport to employment or childcare or focusing on skills and training.

With existing pressure on public sector finances and resource, our response needs to be evidence driven to allow us to target our efforts to maximise impacts. There are challenges around accessing data on child poverty, and work is underway to address this to build a clearer picture at local levels. We are using our data scientists to harness the power of Big Data, building on an innovative Glasgow City Council programme which takes a new approach to use data to understand where needs are greatest.  Up to date and accurate intelligence will allow our member authorities to tailor responses to support residents in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Unsurprisingly the issue of poverty is being exacerbated by the cost of living crisis. The Region’s Intelligence Hub recently produced a detailed briefing on the cost of living crisis and its impact on the Region and individual local areas. You can download the briefing here.

The picture for Glasgow City Region is concerning.

The Centre for Cities cost of living tracker shows how the costs of living is affecting cities differently. In July 2022, inflation in Glasgow[1] was 11.2%. That’s the highest compared to all Scottish cities and higher than the UK’s rate.

The main driver for Glasgow was the higher-than-average proportion of energy inefficient households spending more on heating their homes. This is one of the reasons that the Region has been prioritising the development of a home energy retrofit programme.

It is also estimated that the number of children living in poverty in the Region could increase by approximately 15,500 in the next year.

Our Fair and Healthy work programme is being designed to find ways of keeping people in work. One of the aspects of child poverty in our Region is the long-standing issue of economic inactivity due to ill health.  Too many of our residents have left the labour market for health reasons.  So, we are working with colleagues at PHS and NHS to develop a programme which works with employers to allow people suffering from health issues to remain in work.

Work is also underway on making Glasgow City Region a Living Wage Place, the first Living Wage region in Scotland. I mentioned earlier economic factors are the biggest determinants of population health and inequality.

The real Living Wage is independently calculated based on the cost of living and is paid voluntarily by employers. The hourly rate is calculated annually by The Resolution Foundation on an analysis of the wage that employees need to earn to afford what is considered a decent standard of living, including housing, childcare, transport and heating costs.

Evidence has shown that earning the real Living Wage can mean the difference between surviving and thriving. It has been successful in freeing thousands of people from in-work poverty which is a big issue across the Region. In fact, the proportion of working-age adults in poverty who are in a working household in the UK has never been higher (68%).  The largest increases in poverty are seen in the Administration and Human Health sectors, two of the highest employing sectors in Glasgow City Region.

Employers have found that paying the real Living Wage assists with staff retention, morale and motivation, and in turn that it increases productivity.

Our ambition is to increase the number of workers across Glasgow City Region who are paid the at least the rate of the real Living Wage. We will develop an ambitious Living Wage action plan and set targets for increasing the proportion of local employees covered by a Living Wage commitment, the number of Living Wage employers in the area and the numbers receiving a pay rise as a result of new Living Wage commitments.

This will involve working closely across our eight member councils, recognising that as anchor organisations, with large employee bases, massive buying power as procurers and as owners of land and property, we are in a strong position to use all available levers to influence change on local Living Wage take-up.

We will engage with key Regional employers, in hand with a communication campaign to promote and champion our Region as a Living Wage place and to influence and motivate more employers, focusing on known low pay sectors, to join the Living Wage movement. Again, data will be vital and research is underway to understand the Region’s low pay landscape. I mentioned before that poverty and in particular child poverty is a key policy area for us. Working through the Regional Economic Partnership, we are determined to do all that we can to develop evidence led solutions and programmes that focus on addressing this ever more challenging issue.

[1] Glasgow (PUA): East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire

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