Report reveals more families experiencing destitution, isolation and mental health struggles

Date: 27th October 2020
Category: Child poverty


The study compares the findings of interviews with family support services held in 2013 and findings from interviews with the same services in 2019. The results highlight a rise in families experiencing destitution even before the coronavirus pandemic. 

Destitution is when a person has lacked two or more of six essentials over the past month because they cannot afford them. Essentials include shelter, food, heating, lighting, clothing and footwear and basic toiletries.

Support services reported that families referred to them in 2019 had more complex difficulties and greater needs than in 2013, and that too many families came to the services already at crisis point. Housing problems had become a greater problem in some areas, adversely affecting children. The impact of severe hardship was noted as having a significant impact on parental mental health and family relationships, as well as leading to social isolation and exclusion.

The growing severity of these issues is thought to have been compounded by cuts to statutory social work, the roll out of Universal Credit and closure of many community-based support services for children and families. Of the 14 intensive family support services featured in the 2013 report, six had closed by 2019. This included those which in 2013 had described themselves as being in a relatively secure and even privileged position in terms of their financial stability and strength of relationship with the local authority. The closure of these services has made access to intensive support variable upon what other alternative support provisions are offered in the area.

The report concludes that the following are necessary:

  • Family support: the financial enablement of local authorities, Health and Social Care Partnerships, and Integrated Joint Boards to deliver on the Independent Care Review’s recommendations for family support.
  • Family income: Scottish Government to articulate a clear vision for family income in Scotland and set out how - within the current levers available - it will ensure that all families have enough money to live with dignity.
  • Rights: the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law must be adequately resourced. As the report shows, structural and legislative change does not automatically lead to improved outcomes. Higher levels of public investment must be shifted towards children and family services.

Read the full report here.