Challenge Poverty Week will highlight shameful Tory attack on low-paid parents in Dumfriesshire

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South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed Challenge Poverty Week as an opportunity to highlight the reality of poverty in our region and challenge the policies that cause it – such as the UK Government’s latest cuts to tax credits.


Challenge Poverty Week, which this year runs from 17 to 23 October, is an initiative from Scottish anti-poverty network The Poverty Alliance.  According to the organisation, more than 900,000 people in Scotland live in low income households. 


And South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine MSP says Tory cuts to tax credits means more bad news for working families in Dumfriesshire.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:


“The majority of families receiving support from tax credits are in work.


“This is an appalling move by the Tory government at Westminster who have shown they have nothing but contempt for ordinary working people.


“The cuts will consign thousands of working families in Dumfriesshire to the “poverty trap”.”


In Dumfriesshire, the effect of the cuts will be far-reaching.  Some 3,100 families in work will be affected – meaning less money in the households of an additional 5,500 children.


This follows research from The Campaign to End Child Poverty which last year found that 23% of children in Dumfries and Galloway were living in poverty.


Ms McAlpine said:


“The Westminster Government’s latest cuts to tax credits will only worsen what is an already dire situation for many families who live and work in Dumfriesshire. 


“The Tories are committed to making low-paid workers pay to off-set tax cuts for the wealthy.  That’s what austerity is designed to do – transfer money from ordinary people to the rich.”


Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that by 2020 working families with children who were eligible for tax credits will be on average £737 a year worse off.


Ms McAlpine said:


“There is nothing natural or inevitable about struggling to make ends meet.  The failed policies of successive UK Governments have everything to answer for.


“The Scottish Government has used the powers it has to extend free childcare provision, free school meals and invested £296 million to mitigate the effects of UK Government benefits cuts.


“Having the full levers or powers over tax and welfare would mean we could do much more to improve the lives of children.”


People living in more rural areas are particularly vulnerable to the rises in the cost of living and already pay over the odds for basics like fuel and food.  Dumfries and Galloway has one of the worst rates of fuel poverty in Scotland, with 45% of households deemed fuel poor. 


Ms McAlpine commented:


“The Scottish Government has recently invested a further £224 million to help Scots heat their homes through the latest energy efficiency scheme.


“But as long as energy is controlled from Westminster, householders in Scotland will continue to lose out.  If we had the powers to regulate the energy sector, we could address the problem of rising energy prices and improve access to the gas grid in our country.”


More remote living also means increased food costs. 


A recent study by Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service identified a “poverty premium” in the region with shoppers in some areas paying up to 55% more for the same items than people a few miles away.  Those in the poorest and the most rural areas were found to be paying more than those in the better-off urban areas.


Ms McAlpine commented:


“The “poverty premium” on food prices is simply unfair, but this is only part of the story.  Because of the Tories’ commitment to welfare cuts, we have already seen a huge rise in the use of foodbanks across the region – including use by people in work.


“That is why I was disgusted when Scotland’s only Tory MP opened a second food bank in Dumfries.  The opening of a foodbank is nothing to celebrate – it is a direct consequence of the failure of David Mundell’s Conservative government, which is represented by only one MP in Scotland.”


Ms McAlpine said:


“There are many advantages to living in an area as beautiful as Dumfriesshire.


“But as the saying goes – you can’t eat the scenery.


“I want Scotland to fulfil its potential as a vibrant, viable place where people can live and work without struggling to make ends meet.  If we had control over our own welfare state, we could create a fairer system to end the scourge of poverty and make employment pay for everyone.


“The Tory cuts to tax credits are thoroughly shameful. I hope Challenge Poverty Week hits home the message that poverty is not acceptable – so we must challenge the regressive policies that hold people back and prevent us from fulfilling our potential.”




Challenge Poverty Week runs from 17 to 23 October 2015  


The Campaign to End Child Poverty research:  


Tax credit figures from Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).


Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis:  


Scottish House Condition Survey (2013) ‘Scottish House Condition Survey – Local Authority Analyses 2011-2013’,  


Joseph Rowntree Report ‘ Poverty and the cost of living’:  


The full report from Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service study into the “poverty premium” can be downloaded online: