Members of Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission say leaders must “end the postcode lottery nightmare” for those living in the country’s poorest communities.
The commission, which brings some of the most disadvantaged people from Glasgow together with politicians to discuss the issue, has called for all parties to sign up to their Seven Point Manifesto of Commitment to End Poverty.
The manifesto also calls for action on the roots of alcohol and drugs addiction and long-term violence.
Jim Wallace, co-chair of the PTC, said: “This manifesto not only highlights the issues of concern to Scotland’s poorest communities, it demands a new way of working.
“My engagement with the Poverty Truth Commission has convinced me that we are more likely to identify solutions to some deep-seated problems if politicians and officials involve in the process of policy-making meet with those who experience the reality of poverty in their daily lives.
“That is a real challenge to the next government, whatever its political complexion.”
The PTC has its roots in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of post-apartheid South Africa, when victims of the cruel regime were encouraged to tell their stories.
Now the model, partly conceived by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is being used in Glasgow to help tell the city’s own story of social divide -- that between rich and poor.
While, on the face of it, the links between the South African system of state-run racism may have little in common with acute levels of poverty in Scotland’s biggest city, the commission’s campaigners say there is a similar need for the people living with poverty to be given a voice to directly influence decision-makers.
There’s no shortage of poverty statistics to show the extent of Glasgow’s problem.
In some postcode areas in the East End, 60% of children live in workless households, almost 50% of adults of working age are on incapacity benefit and life expectancy can be as low as 54.
Statistics from 2008 show the difference in life span between affluent and deprived areas can be as much as 20 years. In some West End postcodes, where life expectancy is over 80, fewer than 5% of children live in workless households and there are virtually no benefit claimants.
In Scotland as a whole, more than 800,000 adults live in poverty, which is officially judged to be a household with income less than 60% of the national average income.
Tricia McConalogue, co-chair of the PTC, added: “If the future government is serious about building a better society, then it needs to work hard to address all strands of this Manifesto and to break the cycle of poverty in order for everyone to feel part of and engage in society.
“It is essential that no one is excluded from society.”
Jessie Harvey lives in Springburn and her life, and the area she lives in, have been blighted by poverty.
Aged 59, she looks after her grandson, who was born a Methadone baby, because of his parents’ drug addictions.
Women like Jessie -- Kinship Carers -- are saving the taxpayer millions a year but they find themselves abandoned with negligible practical and financial support.
Jessie said: “When my grandson was born, I was totally unaware of what lay ahead. I had very little help from Social Services and felt very isolated. But, I began to meet other woman in the same position and we are now part of one of the biggest groups in Glasgow -- with 38 carers and 68 children in the group.”
As a member of the North Glasgow Kinship Care Group, Jessie became part of the Poverty Truth Commission in March 2009.
Jessie added: “Everyone in the group works together to campaign tirelessly for these children and the carers. We aim to get the relevant parties to implement our most basic needs, instead of passing the buck and totally ignoring these children.”
The brutal murder of her grandson, inspired Jean Forrester to change, not only her life, but also the lives of the people around her.
The tragedy had an impact on both Jean and on Hamiltonhill, where her family live. However, Jean believes much more could have been done to prevent what happened.
She said: “When my grandson was two-years-old, he was taken into care. Throughout his life, he suffered the effects of his parents’ choices and the environment he was exposed to.”
Now, alongside Jessie and the other women in the North Glasgow Kinship Care Group, Jean has campaigned for more kinship carers to come forward and claim the support they “desperately need” so they can properly look after the children in their care.
Jean believes poverty should be a main issue for all political parties and the kinship care campaign can only go forward with the support of those in power.
She said: “People in power should realise that they are not being accountable to the children’s needs. Invest in early intervention and we can look forward to fine upstanding citizens that we can be very proud of in the future.”
WHAT THE PARTIES SAY ON DEPRIVATION
We are supportive of the calls from the Poverty Truth Commission and have worked to take action on these issues. In Government the SNP has introduced financial support for kinship carers. We are investing in tackling drug and alcohol addiction, including tackling the widespread use of alcohol through our plans to introduce minimum pricing, are supportive of tackling high interest rates from lenders, and oppose plans to withdraw attendance allowance.
The party welcomes the work the Poverty Truth Commission has done and continues to do. A Conservative Government will work to fight poverty by helping people get back into work. Someone who chooses to come off benefits and start working loses up to 90% of their new income through Labour’s unfair tax system. We will increase the basic state pension in line with earnings every year and protect measures to help pensioners.
We remain totally committed to eradiating child poverty by 2020. We’ll close the poverty trap by guaranteeing people will be £40 a week better off in work than on benefits. Our commitment to fairness has put pensioner poverty at the top of our agenda.
We need a Government that will take decisive action to tackle poverty. Liberal Democrats are committed to equality and fully support the work of the Poverty Truth Commission.