MORE than one million Scots are now struggling with poverty – including 240,000 children, 640,000 working-age adults and 150,000 pensioners, new figures have revealed.

The rise is from an “already unacceptably high level” although the percentage of the population is lower than the rest of the UK, thanks to cheaper housing costs, particularly in the rented social sector.

Influential think tank the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has now called for more action to tackle the problem if Scotland is to meet its anti-poverty targets.

Upon releasing the figures to mark Challenge Poverty Week, which begins today, the foundation said a “focused commitment” from housing providers, public service providers and employers was required.

While figures from 2015-18 were lower than at the beginning of devolution in 1999, the foundation’s Poverty in Scotland report 2019 shows they have now “started to shift upwards”.

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The news comes as a separate report showed the number of food parcels given out has risen by 73% since 2013/14, with social workers even using their own money to make sure families have enough to eat.

The Trussell Trust said the number of parcels had increased from around 913,000 to nearly 1.6 million. By comparison, in 2010-11 the number of food parcels provided was 61,468.

One social worker said the increase had rocketed since the introduction of the UK Government’s controversial welfare policy Universal Credit.

The Scottish Association of Social Work is now promoting a guide for social workers to help them when supporting families living in poverty.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has welcomed the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Scottish Child Payment of £10 each week for struggling families with children but called for more action.

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Jim McCormick, the foundation’s associate director for Scotland, warned that previous achievements in tackling poverty were “showing signs of unravelling”.

“The recent announcement of the Scottish Child Payment shows what can be achieved when we are bolder in our thinking and accept that only large-scale action will ease the pressure facing families trapped in poverty,” he said.

“While this new payment will start to turn the tide, it will not by itself be enough to enable every child to break free from poverty.

“As we mark Challenge Poverty Week, it is vital that ministers in Holyrood match their ambitious targets to solve poverty, with action on housing, work and social security needed to make this a reality.”

The Scottish Government has aimed to bring the current rate of 24% of children living in poverty down to less than 10% by 2030.

At the moment, after housing costs have been taken into account, one in five Scots (20%) is in poverty – lower than the 22% across the UK.

The SNP said the foundation’s report showed that action taken by the Scottish Government, such as building 87,000 affordable homes since 2007 and introducing child poverty legislation, was making a real impact on tackling poverty despite UK-wide Tory austerity cuts to the welfare system.

The Scottish Government is now looking at a long-term vision for affordable housing until 2040. The Scottish Child Payment will be introduced next year for children under six years of age.

It is hoped the new benefit will help lift 30,000 youngsters out of poverty by 2024.

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“However we could go further – it’s time for Scotland to have the full powers of independence to prevent thousands more being plunged into poverty and protect people from the Tories’ disastrous policies on Brexit and welfare cuts,” said Neil Gray MP – the SNP’s social justice spokesperson and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty.

Meanwhile, MSPs from Holyrood’s Social Security Committee have called on people across Scotland to claim benefits they are entitled to through a phone line service offered by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

The committee is currently looking into benefit uptake and its consultation is open until October 21.

The number for CAS’s free advice line is 0800 085 7145.