News & Blog

Read the latest business news, blogs and thought leadership articles from our members, as well as updates on the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce's work in the city.

News & Blog

Edinburgh poverty commission challenges the city to end poverty by 2030

Posted: 30th September 2020
  • Final Edinburgh Poverty Commission report identifies seven key areas of action to end poverty in Edinburgh by the end of this decade
  • Almost 15% of Edinburgh’s population lives in poverty, including one in five children
  • Commissioners find that Edinburgh should commit to becoming a Living Wage city within the next 12 months to challenge in-work poverty
  • Report calls for Scottish Government to provide the right funding and support to meet the social housing expansion needs of an extra 2,000 social homes per year in order to address housing and homelessness crisis
  • Commission is passing the baton to End Poverty Edinburgh, a network of residents with first-hand experience of poverty and civic allies drawn from business, public and third sectors.

Edinburgh must become a living wage city within the next year and see an additional 20,000 new social rented homes built within the next decade if poverty is to be eradicated within the city.

This is according to a new report from the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, A Just Edinburgh: Actions to End Poverty in Edinburgh, published today (Wednesday 30 September).

In the report, the Commission challenges the City of Edinburgh Council, UK and Scottish Governments and Edinburgh Partnership members to take immediate and tangible actions in the wake of the pandemic to eliminate poverty from the city by 2030. That would mean reducing the number of people on low income to a specific target, no one being on low income for extended periods of time, and no one experiencing the harshest forms of poverty.

Currently more than 77,000 Edinburgh residents live in poverty – about 15% of the total population including one in every five children. Almost one in three families in the city living below the poverty line are only in that position due to their housing costs alone. This compares with one in eight households who are in poverty across the country as a whole.  The situation is being amplified due to circumstances caused by the pandemic earlier this year, with rising unemployment, increased demand for crisis support and an increase in mental health issues.

The seven areas of action identified by the commission, are:

  1. The right support in the places residents live and work

Actions include: City of Edinburgh Council to lead, working with other Edinburgh Partnership members, the design and delivery of a new operating model for all public services in Edinburgh so that all public workers are focused and empowered to put prevention of poverty at the heart of everything they do, and citizens feel a sense of empowerment through a shift in the culture of support and services.

  1. Fair work that provides dignity and security

Actions include: the city’s employers, trade unions, social enterprises and public-sector bodies working together to make Edinburgh a Living Wage City within 12 months including a shared commitment to at least double the number of living wage accredited employers over the next three years

  1. A decent home that residents can afford to live in

Actions include: Scottish Government ensuring that its next Housing Investment Plan is sufficient to address Edinburgh’s housing crisis with an additional 2,000 social rented homes needed every year over the next decade; City of Edinburgh Council making maximum use of new powers to regulate and license short term letting in the city, and expand and improve early person-centred advice and advocacy services to prevent homelessness

  1. Income security and a real safety net

Actions include: Edinburgh Partnership should ensure proactive, high impact support to maximise household income is embedded in every nursery, school, and GP surgery in the city. UK Government should commit to keeping temporary increases in Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, and Local Housing Allowance, beyond April 2021 and extending this uplift to other legacy benefits.

  1. Opportunities that drive justice and boost prospects

Actions include: The Council should commit to codesign a significant new programme to improve attainment with young people and families living in poverty and aim to develop genuinely mixed school catchment areas by 2030.  Edinburgh’s employers, schools in both independent and state sectors and universities should to do more to offer high quality opportunities for young people on low incomes, for example by sharing high quality work experiences and teaching and learning resources online.  The Edinburgh Partnership should invest in a radical expansion of mentoring schemes in the city, supporting volunteer mentors to help children and young people build bridges to a wider range of experiences and opportunities.

  1. Connections in a city that belongs to its residents

Actions include: Scottish Government and City of Edinburgh Council should ensure that public funding for the renewal of the city’s festivals and tourism economy is conditional on delivery of actions to promote inclusion and equality; City of Edinburgh Council should ensure planning of housing, amenity, employment, and services embeds a 20-minute walking (or ‘pram pushing’) distance principle at the heart of designing all neighbourhoods in Edinburgh; and the Scottish Government should extend eligibility for concessionary travel to under 25s and carers

  1. Equality in residents’ health and wellbeing

Actions include: Council, EVOC and local organisations to continue funding, co-ordinating and operating services to provide quality fresh food to people who experiencing food insecurity to avoid reliance on foodbanks; Edinburgh Partnership invest and work with local organisations alongside primary care teams to provide community based supports and activities which enable positive wellbeing and those living in poverty to better self-manage long term health conditions; and the city will need to make a significant and sustained effort to address mental health

The report marks the end of the work of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission as it hands over to End Poverty Edinburgh – a new independent group of residents with first-hand experience of living on a low income and civic allies drawn from business, public services and the third sector. As a group, they will work to raise awareness and understanding of poverty, influence decisions, and hold the city to account for ending poverty in Edinburgh.

The report will be presented to the Council’s Policy and Sustainability Committee next week (Tuesday 6 October) and, should it be passed by Councillors, it will see Edinburgh become the first local authority in the UK to commit to ending poverty on a specific timeline.

Jim McCormick, Chair of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, said:

“As the Edinburgh Poverty Commission we have listened, been shocked and inspired – I hope we have done justice to what we have learned. Our Call to Action sets out something beyond hope: it is an expectation of what the city can and must now achieve.

“Edinburgh will only succeed in creating a prosperous city without poverty if it creates the conditions to foster that: good jobs, genuinely affordable housing, income security and meaningful opportunities that drive justice and boost prospects – above all, in the city’s schools.

 “Poverty in Edinburgh is real, damaging and costly. The only way we can change this is through a city-wide approach to tackling the twin challenges of solving poverty and reducing carbon emissions over the next decade, working in partnership with people, communities and organisations in a holistic way.”

Councillor Cammy Day, Vice Chair of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission and Depute Leader of City of Edinburgh Council, said:

“On behalf of all my fellow commissioners I want to offer our huge thanks and gratitude to the over 1,000 citizens and workers who contributed their voices, experiences and insights to our inquiry over the past 18 months.  Edinburgh is a fantastic, thriving city, but we are still home to over 77,000 people who struggle in poverty every day.  We cannot accept this any longer.

“Tackling poverty in Edinburgh is a challenge that must be acted on urgently, with great responsibility and through a Team Edinburgh approach. We will need to work together partnership and marshal all the resources of the city if we are to truly make a difference.

“I’m very appreciative of the hard work and dedication that has gone into the creation of this report and further to that, incredibly grateful to have been part of the process over the last few months, to have the opportunity to meet and hear from those who are living in poverty in our city. As the Council’s Poverty Champion, I will do everything I can to enable our city to make the changes that the Commission has identified, however, these can only be fully achieved through a joined up approach from local and national governments and where local businesses, communities and residents in our capital city do all that we can to alleviate poverty.” 

For more information on the Edinburgh Poverty Commission and its work, visit


Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
Read more here