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Monitoring poverty and social exclusion in Scotland (2002)

An independent record of trends in Scotland over the past five years, covering low income, employment, education, health, quality of life and social cohesion.

Written by:
Peter Kenway, Steven Fuller, Mohibur Rahman, Cathy Street and Guy Palmer
Date published:

Action to reduce poverty and promote social exclusion is a key long-term objective for the Scottish Executive. But how much progress has Scotland and its devolved government been able to make towards these goals? This report provides an independent record of relevant trends over the past five years. Compiled by the team responsible for the annual series of studies covering Britain, the choice of subject areas in this report has been determined ‘from scratch’ to reflect the Scottish context.

Data has been assembled for 34 different indicators, covering low income, employment, education, health, quality of life and social cohesion. Using graphs and maps, each section illustrates changes over time and differences relating to social class, age, gender, ethnicity and local authority area. The accompanying text includes a series of specially commissioned commentaries, written by experts based in Scotland.

An appendix describes the main policy initiatives that have been launched against poverty and social exclusion, from both Holyrood and Westminster. The results contrast welcome improvements in some of the indicators on education and housing with the stubborn refusal of many other key measures – including numbers living on low income and in households without work - to move.


Using the latest available data, a report by the New Policy Institute contains an independent selection of indicators, maps and commentary that together present a picture of poverty, inequality and social exclusion in Scotland. The report shows:

  • Over the four-year period 1997/8 to 2000/1, the proportion of people in Scotland with relative low incomes rose slightly, to around 1.2 million people in 2000/1. Taking a longer view back to 1994/5, the overall sense is one of no change in this number.
  • At 30 per cent (equivalent to some 310,000 children in 2000/1), the proportion of children living in relative low-income households barely altered over the period 1997/8 to 2000/1.
  • Fewer of those on relative low income are now unemployed, while more are working. Among low-income, working-age households, 1 in 5 are unemployed, 2 in 5 contain someone who is working, while the other 2 in 5 are economically inactive. Many of the economically inactive who want paid work are classified as 'long-term sick and disabled'.
  • In spring 2002, nearly 210,000 working-age households had been without work for three years or more, the highest number for at least a decade.
  • The numbers claiming Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) was continuing to rise in 2001/2, two years after its introduction. On average, the increase in the proportion of claimants was similar across local authority areas, rather than higher in areas of greater deprivation.
  • Although the proportion of school-leavers with a Standard Grade 1 or 2 rose sharply between 1996/7 and 2000/1, there has been no reduction since 1998/9 in the proportion leaving school with nothing more than a Standard Grade 5 or 6.
  • There has been substantial progress in reducing the number of homes without central heating. In 1999/0, the proportion of such homes had fallen to 8 per cent from 17 per cent over four years; among low-income homes, the proportion also halved, from 25 to 13 per cent.
  • Across a range of topics, from lack of access to basic financial services and products, to fear of walking alone in one's local area at night, people with lower incomes or from manual backgrounds are more likely to report problems than others.
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