Top UK poverty expert to lead new Poverty Commission in Scotland's capital city

The City of Edinburgh Council has today appointed an independent chair to lead the Edinburgh Poverty Commission.

Dr Jim McCormick
Dr Jim McCormick

This is a nationally important Commission, which will shine a light on and recommend ways to address poverty in the Capital. 

Dr Jim McCormick, Associate Director for Scotland with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, will lead the Commission over the next 12 months before making recommendations for change to partners across the city.

A national expert, Jim McCormick has a strong track record working with government, public sector agencies and the voluntary sector, advising on policy and the design of practical solutions to reduce, prevent, and mitigate the effects of poverty throughout the UK. 

Council Depute Leader and Poverty Champion, Councillor Cammy Day, has been appointed as the vice-chair. A former youth worker, born and bred in North Edinburgh, and a councillor for 10 years, Cllr Day brings a wealth of experience to addressing the persistent issues caused by poverty and deprivation in the city. 

Due to meet for the first time in the Autumn, the Commission will take a strategic overview of the scale, scope, and nature of poverty in Edinburgh and the effectiveness of activity currently being undertaken to address it. People affected by poverty from across the city will be at the heart of its work. 

Recommendations will be made to the Edinburgh Partnership and the Council on a programme of actions and activities needed to reduce, prevent, and mitigate the effects of poverty and inequality in Edinburgh by the end of next year. 

The new Chair and vice-Chair will lead on recruiting up to 11 more commission members in the coming weeks, with the aim of providing a strong cross-section of expertise and experience, including business, the third sector, public sector agencies, local and national government. 

The Scottish Government is funding the Commission to ensure that people with experience of poverty participate fully in its work and shape its thinking. 

Jim McCormick, Chair of the Poverty Commission, said: “Poverty in Scotland’s capital city looks different from a generation ago. It affects people in work as well as those who are not working. It reflects the struggle to get enough hours, decent work and affordable housing.

"We know that poverty locks people out of opportunities, now and in future. But poverty is a challenge that can be solved by enabling people to withstand the tide of insecurity. This commission will shine a bright light on the lived reality of poverty in Edinburgh and search out workable solutions for the long term.” 

Cllr Cammy Day added: “I’m delighted that Jim has agreed to be the independent chair and that his appointment was approved by councillors today. I very much look forward to working with him so that together we can recruit a high calibre Poverty Commission that makes a real and long-term difference to poverty in Edinburgh.  

“This announcement is extremely timely as we are now in Challenge Poverty Week and setting up this Commission is Edinburgh’s response to what is a devastating, deep seated and city-wide problem. 

“The work of the Commission will be about more than influencing the way the Council works. If we are going to make a difference, we need everyone in the city to work together. For example, involving the business community will be key to our success. If our city economy is to continue to thrive everyone needs to benefit from the prosperity it brings. 

“But most importantly, I want to ensure that we understand what it is like to experience poverty in Edinburgh and to focus on the things that will make a difference to people’s lives. This will be a commission that listens to the local and unique concerns of citizens in the city.” 

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “I’m pleased that we are providing funding to support the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, and ensure that those with direct experience of poverty are given a voice and can be involved with the group.  The Scottish Government is taking tough action nationally to tackle poverty and the causes of poverty.  Every area has different challenges, which is why the work the Commission will do to get to the root issues of poverty across the city has the potential to make a real difference.”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said: “In our society we believe in doing the right thing. And yet, we’re letting increasing numbers of people get swept up in the rising tide of poverty. Even in a wealthy city like Edinburgh, too many people are locked into poverty. 

“We welcome the announcement of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission. It is particularly important that the Commission draws on the knowledge and experience of people living on low incomes in the city, and we are pleased that there are plans in place to make this happen. 

“There should be no doubt about the challenge that the Commission faces, but by boosting people’s incomes and reducing the cost of living we can redesign our economy to help more people move out of poverty. We look forward to working with the Commission as it develops a new approach to address poverty in Edinburgh.” 

Ella Simpson, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council, said: “Poverty impacts on all our lives, it’s our collective responsibility to understand the impact this has on people’s lives. The Poverty Commission has, rightly, set itself an ambitious task of addressing this complex issue. I am delighted that the Poverty Commission will be working with and listening to communities. EVOC is committed to working with the commission to agree actions to address poverty.” 

Further information

  • Jim McCormick is also chair of the independent Disability and Carers Benefits advisory group reporting to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security in the Scottish Government. He is member of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) advising the UK Department for Work and Pensions and is an advisory board member of Business in the Community Scotland. He is also a Churchill Fellow looking at the impact of mentoring programmes for young people facing disadvantage, in the USA, Canada and New Zealand.
  • He was an active participant in recent commissions held in Fife, Perth and Kinross, and Renfrewshire. In addition to this, Jim McCormick was part of a UK wide panel facilitated by the Carnegie Trust in 2017 to assess the potential for fairness and poverty commission approaches to drive and enable change in local areas.
  • Jim McCormick is Associate Director Scotland with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), an independent organisation working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice. JRF’s mission is set out in its strategy to #SolveUKPoverty: www.jrf.org.uk
  • In its state of the nation report published today, Poverty in Scotland 2018, the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) warns one in four (230,000) children in Scotland live in poverty. The report comes as Challenge Poverty? Aye we can! gets underway, a campaign by the Poverty Alliance which shows how poverty in Scotland can be solved and allow everyone to take part in society.
  • Challenge Poverty Week is being run by Poverty Alliance. You can find out more here.
  • Individuals are defined as being in poverty if their household income is below 60 percent of the UK median, adjusted for family size. In Edinburgh 82,000 people (16% of the city) live in households where income falls below this threshold.
  • Poverty rates in Edinburgh vary considerably between different areas of the city, from as low as 5% in some areas, to as high as 27% in others. The gap in life expectancy between the poorest and most affluent parts of the city is as high as 24 years.
  • Poverty rates also vary considerably between different types of household. 41% of all lone parents, 26% of single adults and 13% of all pensioners live on incomes below the poverty threshold.
  • Poverty is not caused through unemployment alone. 54% of all people in poverty live in households where at least one adult is in work.  In work poverty has risen dramatically in the past ten years – in 2007 the rate was only 44%.
  • At every stage of education children from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve poorer results at school than those from affluent backgrounds.  In Edinburgh, only 38% of S5 pupils in our most disadvantaged areas achieve 5 or more awards at SCQF level 5.  This is well below the average of 60% of pupils across all schools in the city.

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