The below content sets out the Scottish Government’s position on the topic of poverty and gender, and also includes a ‘state of the nation’ prepared by the government’s analytical department. Additionally, you can find a contribution from The Poverty and Inequality Commission, which provides independent advice to Scottish Ministers on reducing poverty and inequality in Scotland.
Scottish Government Policy Position
Being able to access sanitary products is fundamental to equality, dignity and rights for all people who menstruate. In a society as wealthy as Scotland’s, no-one should have to suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs. That is why in our Programme for Government we committed to take world-leading action to make free sanitary products available in all of Scotland’s schools, colleges and universities from August 2018. We have recently reaffirmed this commitment in our child poverty action plan – Every Child, Every Chance.
In light of the evidence gathered from our pilot in Aberdeen to explore making sanitary products available across a number of community-based organisations and education establishments, we are providing over £500,000 to Fareshare to distribute sanitary products through its extensive network of community partners. We expect this work to reach a further 18,800 people on low income.
The action we’re taking will make a difference to people’s wellbeing by reducing the stress and anxiety they experience because they struggle to afford these essential items. This will support them to continue with day-to-day activities, including participating in education, during their period. We hope, too, that by making free sanitary products available, those on low income will see an increase in their disposal income.
This government has always prioritised tackling fuel poverty – this year we have introduced the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill, which will achieve three key things:
1. Set a new target for fuel poverty;
2. Introduce a new definition that will focus our support on those who need it most, ensuring that more families – including those with pregnant women or children – will be able to benefit from fuel poverty programmes; and
3. Mandate the production of a new long-term fuel poverty strategy.
This work aligns with our Energy Efficient Scotland programme, launched in May this year as the most ambitious building improvement programme Scotland has ever seen. Our vision is that by 2040 our homes and buildings are warmer, greener and more efficient. The programme has two main objectives: removing poor energy efficiency as a driver for fuel poverty; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
This package of work will build on our successes to date, and existing schemes – we are on track to deliver the 2016 Programme for Government commitment to make half a billion pounds available for fuel poverty and energy efficiency over the 4 years to 2021. And in line with our other strategies to tackle poverty, reduce child poverty, improve health outcomes and make Scotland a fairer country, during 2018/19 we have directed the Scottish Government-funded Home Energy Scotland advice network to prioritise, amongst others, lone parents – many of whom are women – and households where the mother is under the age of 24.
Ending rough sleeping and homelessness are national priorities for the Scottish Government as part of our drive to create a fairer Scotland. There has been a 39% fall in homelessness applications in the last 10 years and that is largely due to innovative approaches across the county.
Where homelessness occurs, Scotland has some of the strongest housing rights in the world. Everybody found to be homeless is entitled to housing and most people are provided with settled accommodation. We have also introduced a cap of one week for families and pregnant women living in B&B accommodation.
We continue to work with partners to find better ways to support people and prevent homelessness. This includes taking forward 70 ambitious recommendations from the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group which, as part of its work, recognised that women experiencing domestic abuse are at particular risk. That’s why recommendation 23 calls for all social landlords to have clear policies on domestic abuse to help ensure women do not lose their tenancy.
The Group’s recommendations are being backed by the £50 million Ending Homelessness Together fund which will help local authorities and partners to strengthen support for people with complex needs, transform the system of temporary accommodation, offer people rapid routes back into settled housing and end homelessness for good.
No one should be left hungry and have to rely on emergency food provision in a country as prosperous as Scotland. It is a scandal and that’s why the Scottish Government will continue to challenge UK Government welfare reforms that are a key driver causing this increased demand.
In 2016 we honoured our manifesto commitment to establish a £1 million a year Fair Food Fund to reduce reliance on emergency food provision. This year we increased the Fund to £1.5 million. The additional £0.5 million is ring-fenced for practical support that aims to reduce food insecurity during the school holidays for vulnerable children and families.
This establishment of the Fair Food Fund was in response to the 2015 findings of an Independent Short-Life Working Group on Food Poverty. People with lived experience of poverty, including many women, informed and influenced the work of the group, and notably its recommendation that we should be looking to transition away from foodbanks towards more dignified and empowering responses. You can read their final report here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00502395.pdf
The Group recommended a range of measures focused on increasing incomes and developing sustainable, empowering, inclusive community food models. We adopted the Group’s principles on dignified food provision to inform how we direct our £1.5 million a year fund and will continue to focus our investment in this way. The Fund therefore aims to reduce and over time remove the need for foodbanks in Scotland and shift from delivering food charity to a system of food justice where everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food.
See Poverty and Inequality Commission's contribution here.
Further reading: Scottish Government Analytical Services – state of the nation.