Churches call for action to tackle an unjust ‘poverty premium’

By staff writers
December 8, 2014

Scotland’s poorest households are paying £1,300 a year more than their wealthier neighbours for everyday goods and services.

The shocking figure is highlighted in Food, Fuel, Finance, a report published on 8 December 2014 by a coalition of churches and charities.

The report draws on a year of grassroots research conducted in Glasgow alongside people affected by the ‘Poverty Premium’ – unfairly high prices for everyday essentials including food, fuel, finance, furniture, and even funerals.

It tells the stories of how communities across Scotland are tackling the problem themselves through creative initiatives such as food hubs, community gardens and shops, and district heating schemes.

But it also highlights the need for regulation and legislation, and calls on the Scottish Government to develop a plan for tackling the Poverty Premium in partnership with communities.

Martin Johnstone, Chief Executive of Faith in Community Scotland and Secretary of Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission, commented: “This report highlights what many of our poorest citizens already know. If you are poor then food, fuel, furniture and even funerals costs you more than if you have spare money in the bank. That is ludicrous but it is reality. It’s a scandal – a scandal that we must overturn, once and for all. Having read this report no politician, no business and no citizen should rest content until things are different.”

Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty, commented: “It shouldn’t cost money to be poor. It is unacceptable for companies to exploit their most vulnerable customers by charging them the highest prices. But it’s exciting and inspiring to see communities working together to make markets work for people in poverty. With real support from the Government and service-providers, we can tackle the Poverty Premium.”

Peter MacDonald, leader of the Iona Community, commented: “It is clear from this report, consistent with several others, that we are not ‘all in this together’. The poorest among us are paying the price of austerity. This is morally and economically just plain wrong.”

Endorsing the report, Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, said: "The UK is now heading towards becoming the third most unequal developed economy in the world, and the moral cost of this is born by all of us. But the burden is felt by people living without adequate food, fuel and finance in a wealthy society. This cannot be allowed to continue.

"Scottish churches and agencies are showing the way forward in tackling the 'poverty premium' – the ironic extra cost involved in being poor. Grassroots campaigners put the issue of hunger in Britain on the agenda with the End Hunger Fast. Now church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, are recognising the urgency of the situation.

"This research shows that the way forward must involve both government and collective action involving people living in poverty themselves, not forms of charity which alleviate the problem of hunger and other forms of a denial of basic justice while leaving its causes untackled."

* The Food, Fuel and Finance report is available on Ekklesia here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21129

* The Church Action on Poverty site on this report includes a section where people can write to MPs and MSPs asking for action: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/foodfuelfinance

* The Iona Community page on this issue: http://iona.org.uk/2014/11/21/food-fuel-finance-report/

[Ekk/3]

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