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SASW campaigns for greater focus on tackling poverty

This week, SASW National Director, Alison Bavidge met with the Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security and Social Justice Committee, Elena Whitham MSP to discuss tackling poverty in Scotland.

Last month, Ms Whitham spoke in a parliamentary debate on tackling drug deaths and harm where she highlighted a significant part of SASW’s consultation response on the link between substance use and poverty. SASW’s contribution stated:

“Poverty is still one of the leading contributing factors for substance use and so a wider focus on tackling poverty and inequality is essential. The impact of poverty, food insecurity, fuel poverty and digital exclusion on Scotland’s families and communities is devastating and increases the risk of pushing individuals toward drug use. Harmful drug use is also most damaging to communities already struggling with disadvantage, poverty and marginalisation.”

Following the debate, Ms Whitham agreed to meet with Ms Bavidge to discuss the issue and potential solutions.

Social workers see first hand the devastating impacts of poverty every day. With the cost of living rising, those problems are only going to exasperate. People across the country are being cornered into making unthinkable choices between putting food on their tables and heating their homes. We urgently need more effective policies at national and local levels to address this problem. 

As well as the human and societal impacts, poverty leads to an inevitable increase in demands on social work services. With more people struggling, the expectations on social workers go up too. Caseloads, which are already high and often complex, can become overwhelming, thus putting further strain on an already stretched workforce.

SASW therefore used this meeting with Ms Whitham to highlight these concerns and put forward our proposals for what more could be done to tackle poverty.

  • Commit to the policy of a Citizens Basic Income or other means of effective and dignified financial support from the state.
  • Talk to people with lived experience of poverty and involve them in policy development to better understand the hardships they face so you can deliver more effective solutions at both national and local level.

We look forward to continuing to work with Ms Whitham and other members of the Social Security and Social Justice Committee on this important issue. 

You can read SASW’s full consultation response to tackling drug deaths and harm here.

If you would like to discuss this with us further, please contact our Policy Officer on