Poverty (Older People)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20 April 2023.

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Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

7. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the recent report by Independent Age, which states that one in seven people in Scotland over the state pension age live in poverty. (S6O-02122)

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is, of course, concerned about anyone who is living in poverty. It is committed to tackling poverty and recognises the specific inequalities that apply to older people.

The Scottish Government has consistently called for the United Kingdom Government to provide additional support to assist people with the cost of living crisis. However, the chancellor has failed to deploy the full range of powers available to him to make a real difference to people’s lives.

The Scottish Government recognises the pressure on household budgets, which is why, last year and this, we have allocated almost £3 billion to support policies that tackle poverty and protect people as far as possible during the on-going cost of living crisis.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I thank the minister for her answer and wish her well in her new role.

Too often, there is a misconception that older people are well off. However, the minister will know that the number of people in later life who are living in poverty in Scotland has risen by 25 per cent since 2012. Therefore, as well as looking at more immediate action to combat that rise in poverty, I ask the minister whether, in her new role, she will give serious consideration to the recommendation in the Independent Age report and the longstanding call by Age Scotland for the establishment of an older people’s commissioner for Scotland to properly amplify older people’s concerns, including that all-too-often-hidden problem of poverty in later life.

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

I absolutely appreciate the concerns that the member is raising, but we do not have plans at the moment to introduce legislation to establish an older people’s commissioner. There are existing commissions that protect the rights of older people: the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission. They already play a role in relation to the rights of older people in respect of age as a protected characteristic.

In addition, we continue to work closely with the older people’s strategic action forum on a range of priorities for advancing age equality. We are committed to promoting the rights of older people and ensuring that they benefit from all that we are doing to improve people’s lives. That is why we provide more than £2.2 million to support older people’s organisations, to tackle inequality and discrimination and support our aim of promoting the rights of older people.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I welcome the minister to her place. As all MSPs are aware, the state pension is reserved to the UK Government. Under successive Labour, coalition and Tory Governments, the pension has been one of the lowest relative to wages in Europe. Does the minister know of any commitment by the Labour Party, which seeks to continue Westminster control of pensions, to significantly increase the state pension—the most effective way of reducing pensioner poverty—or is that just more Opposition grandstanding?

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

I am not aware of any substantive proposals from the Labour Party that would reduce pensioner poverty, which was a major issue for older people even before the current cost of living crisis. As the member will know, the levers to reduce pensioner poverty, including control of the levels of the state pension and pension credit, lie with the Government at Whitehall. Only with the full powers of a normal independent country could we properly tackle that, but we will continue to call on the UK Government to ensure that all pensioners are encouraged to take up the benefits that they are entitled to, in full.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

One of the facts that is sometimes not taken into account in arguments around older citizens is the fact that they are often undertaking caring roles in our society for loved ones including grandchildren and great grandchildren. When, specifically, does the Scottish Government intend to deliver the national kinship care payment, which it has committed to, and the extension of the period of time for which carers allowance will be paid following the death of a cared-for person?

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

The member raises a very important point. I will ask the minister with specific responsibility for that portfolio to get in touch with him with a full response.