October 17, 2014 : Lynn Williams

Challenging poverty & challenging ourselves

As Challenge Poverty Week draws to a close, Lynn issues a call to arms

Celebrating Challenge Poverty Week brings mixed feelings for me. Of course we’re not celebrating the fact that we have abject and eye-watering levels of poverty in Scotland, but we are celebrating the work of activists and charities who speak up and challenge politicians to do more, think differently and to work with us.

The week kicked off with the Poverty Alliance’s AGM. Delivering a workshop with Bill Scott from Inclusion Scotland, the subject of welfare reform and its effect on families was never far from our minds.

The last thirty years have seen a drastic increase in inequality amongst our fellow citizens – too many families are hungry and cold, and live in poor housing. Work can now no longer be a guaranteed route out of poverty. Disturbingly, the publication of the latest child poverty maps shows the reality of poverty for our children that instead of nourishing, supporting and empowering our most vulnerable, policy often has the opposite effect.

We have seen a lot of anger during Challenge Poverty Week, but we have also seen a real will and a fire to find a different path for Scotland. And that is one of the legacies of the referendum debate.

We have seen a lot of anger during Challenge Poverty Week, but we have also seen a real will and a fire to find a different path for Scotland

During my session at the STUC event this week I challenged politicians heading into the “square go” of the Smith Commission to hold social justice at the heart of the negotiations. Inequality is firmly on the political agenda – e.g. consider the election of Nicola Sturgeon on a platform of fairness, and recent work carried out by Scottish Labour to consider health inequalities.

The mark of that commitment will be in policy. What develops over the coming months as we move to 2015 and beyond, will demonstrate the depth of that interest and the will to truly change this country for the better.

So, whether you are in a trade union, a charity or choose to change things in your own way, it is incumbent on all of us to keep on pressuring our politicians to work with us. Setting aside any difference, political or otherwise, is a good first step. The scale of need and the lack of opportunity facing far too many citizens calls for honesty and a reimagining of public policy. Nothing less will do.

Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don't represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

by Lynn Williams