The theme of the 92nd Women’s Conference was “Fighting to eradicate child poverty” and delegates pledged support for a range of actions to tackle the shame of one in four of Scotland’s children growing up in poverty.
This included calls from the EIS for additional supports in school to mitigate the impact of child poverty.
Supporting a Communication Workers Union motion, UNISON’s Kate Ramsden slammed “the disgrace” of a society which allows almost one in four of our children to grow up poor – most of them in families who have at least one parent in work.
“The rise of part-time, insecure work has worsened the plight of working families whilst changes to universal credit have pushed more and more children into poverty,” said Kate, “And yet we are a rich country – the fifth richest in the world.”
She pointed out that figures published in 2017 showed that the richest one per cent in Scotland owned more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent put together, whilst the richest 1000 in the UK have seen their wealth increase by £274 billion since 2013.
“What kind of country do we live in that allows children to go hungry when there is so much wealth around?” asked Kate.
She told conference that child poverty could be eradicated tomorrow if the political will was there to do it, but warned that still the message was not getting out there, because “the media have done too good a job of “demonising the poor and vulnerable, in creating an “us and them”, a divide and rule.
“Even in Scotland, where we pride ourselves on being more caring, more compassionate, we see a failure by the SNP government to tackle child poverty – to use their tax raising powers to redistribute wealth and to really make a difference,” said Kate.
She called for a redoubling of our efforts to get the message out, to challenge the low wage economy that this UK government has created and to fight for a decent and fair society where social justice prevails.
“The kind of society where no child has to grow up in poverty.”
UNISON’s Pat Rowland supported the EIS call for the Scottish government to deliver on the promise of Additional Support for Learning legislation and the legal obligations of the Fairer Scotland Duty.
She told delegates that the number of UNISON members working as support assistants in schools has dropped over the years as cuts to support staff are an easy target, forgetting that reducing these numbers puts pressure on the rest of the education team.
She added that deprived families with children with additional support needs, a large number of which are single parents, are struggling with day to day living as it is, without having the struggle of no support for their children in schools.
“Lack of support for these children has an adverse effect on the education of all children,” said Pat.
“We should all press local authorities and government to redress the balance to ensure that Getting it Right for Every Child is not just an aspiration but is reality, by fully funding the appropriate staffing supports.”
Reports by UNISON Scotland Communications and Campaigns Committee from Kate Ramsden in Perth.