23 October 2015

Scottish Youth Parliament Press Office

Youth Parliament wraps up Challenge Poverty Week with release of research report, saying young people think poverty isn’t a choice.

The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) has released a research report, titled It’s Not A Choice, that explores how young people perceive poverty, its causes, its impacts, and what policy responses should be used to address child and youth poverty. The title of the report reflects a key finding; only 11% of young people think that poverty is solely a result of a person’s choices.[1]

This finding is in contrast to the Scottish Government’s 2015 finding that 72% of wider Scottish society believed that individual factors such as parents not wanting to work, or drug and alcohol addiction were the reasons behind child and youth poverty, as opposed to structural factors.[2]

The research for It’s Not A Choice was compiled by Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) in conjunction with their current national campaign, POVERTY: See It Change It.

As an organisation, SYP’s ethos and values are fundamentally grounded in rights, and more specifically the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Here in Scotland, 1 in 5 children and young people are living in poverty. SYP sees this as not only unacceptable, but also as a failure on the part of the government to protect the fundamental rights of children and young people. The research findings found that 94% of young people believe that governments have a responsibility to protect the rights of children and young people.[3]

Speaking ahead of the launch, SYP Chair Jordan Linden MSYP said:

“It is clear that young people realise that poverty isn’t a choice, and it certainly isn’t the choice of the children and young people who are being affected. When you are born into something, like poverty, you didn’t choose it, so we need real change and fast action to break this cycle. We also need to challenge the negative stigmas that are often associated with poverty. These adverse attitudes are a result of a lack of understanding about poverty’s true causes. Young people’s understanding that poverty isn’t a choice paves the way for a change of attitude within wider society.

“Poverty is an issue that transcends party politics, and goes right to the core of who we are as a nation and as people. Through our research, we found that the vast majority (94%) of young people believe it is the responsibility of governments to protect and uphold our rights.  Every child and young person living in poverty is a direct failing on the part of our governments to uphold those rights.

“My fellow MSYPs and I will use this research to challenge our leaders to address child and youth poverty with urgency, and to involve the voices and opinions of young people. We believe this is an issue that can be solved, and our research shows that young people have very clear ideas about how this can be done. They told us there should be an increase in vocational education, the living wage should be paid, we should be improving higher education, there should be affordable childcare, and we should improve schools in deprived areas.

“At the heart of all of this research is the fact that 1 in 5 children in Scotland are living in poverty. This is completely unacceptable. The future of each of those children and young people is in jeopardy, and so is the future of our nation if we don’t address this dire problem. We hope the UK and Scottish Governments will take drastic action to fulfil their promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020.”

SYP will release the full research report on Friday morning, 23rd October at a youth centre in Barrhead. Partners, elected leaders, and interested parties will be attending the research launch, and the report will also be widely distributed to MSPs, elected leaders, and third sector organisations. The report will also be available on after the official release.

Notes to editor

  1. The Scottish Youth Parliament is the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people.
  2. Elections to the Scottish Youth Parliament take place every two years. The new membership was elected during the March 2015 elections, where a record number of votes were cast. A full list of the newly elected Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament can be found
  3. The Scottish Youth Parliament launched its POVERTY: See It Change It campaign on Friday 23rd January 2014.
  4. The next National Sitting and AGM will take place this weekend, 24th and 25th of October, during which the new membership will select the topic for their next campaign.


(1)Scottish Youth Parliament (2015), It’s Not A Choice, pg. 16

(2)Scottish Government (2015), Public Attitudes to Poverty, Inequality, and Welfare in Scotland and Britain, pg. 14

(3)Scottish Youth Parliament (2015), It’s Not A Choice, pg. 29