Aye we can - Challenge Poverty Week 2018 Insights from BITC Scotland

Alan Thornburrow is the Scotland Director for Business in the Community (BITC), on how we can challenge poverty by working with employers to provide good work and inclusive growth in Scotland

On 2 October I was delighted to participate in the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report launch on Poverty in Scotland 2018 on behalf of BITC. Whilst the findings of the report are tough to hear, it is important to know how we are doing and who is worst affected if we are to focus actions and combine efforts to meaningfully challenge poverty in Scotland.

JRF’s analysis this year focuses on families with children in Scotland as a result of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act which aims to eradicate child poverty. Its key findings were:

  • Disability, ill health and caring responsibilities are the most prevalent characteristics in child poverty
  • Most children living in poverty have at least one adult in work, often at the maximum number of hours required by social security
  • Understanding the barriers to work for parents and how this interacts with job quality, especially for women, is key to understanding poverty in Scotland and how to tackle it.

At Business in the Community Scotland, we challenge poverty every day by working with employers to provide good work and inclusive growth in Scotland.

Good Work
More than 1 in 5 workers now face precarious employment conditions that mean they could lose their work suddenly. Even with a job, 1 in 8 UK workers are living in poverty.

The report from JRF shows that many of these workers will have children, and that in Scotland most children living in poverty had at least one adult in work. With employment figures at an all-time low, and in-work poverty on the rise, having a job is not enough – it must be a good job if it is going to enable the employee and their family to escape poverty. 

We know that the living wage, sufficient hours, job quality and equal opportunity are all essential to helping families escape poverty. For businesses, good quality work has also been proven to reduce costs, increase productivity and innovation and help the business grow and thrive in a sustainable way. It’s a win-win.

Last year BITC partnered with JRF to create an action plan that would help every employer to offer Good Work for All. Our definition of good work is reflected in the Scottish Fair Work Framework, and we are working closely with the Scottish Government to develop an action plan that will make Scotland a world-leader in Fair Work by 2025.

Inclusive Growth
Responsible Business delivers growth. Not only is it responsible to be inclusive regarding employment and opportunities, it is also sensible – we know that businesses who are more diverse are more productive, innovative and engaged. This is why we spend so much time working with businesses to ensure that they are developing policies, processes and cultures that support a diverse workforce.

BITC recently published our #EqualLives report which found that whilst men and women have equal desires when it comes to caring responsibilities, business does provide equal support. To help women to be more equal in the workplace, men must have more equal opportunities when it comes to caring. This requires not only a policy change but also a cultural one – but in doing so we will reduce gender inequalities (and the gender pay gap), increase engagement and productivity in the workforce and support families with children to achieve a good work/life balance.

We also have campaigns on wellbeing, race and age – all potential barriers for families in or at risk of poverty. In Scotland we are also working to support the Scottish Government’s target to close the employment gap for those with disabilities by 50%. The research from JRF highlights just how useful this is in supporting families in poverty.

Aye we can … if we work together
The conversations at JRF’s report launch highlighted the complexities around poverty and the need for a compassionate, creative and collaborative effort from government, business and society to challenge poverty. It was clear that this was not only possible - but, given the passion and commitment in the room – probable that together we can do it.

“It’s not rocket science, we just need to get on with it” one participant said, and I fully agree. So, on the back of JRF’s Poverty in Scotland 2018 report I’m asking business to work with us, as we work with government and partners in civil society, to get on with it and challenge poverty in Scotland. #AyeWeCan