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Alyn Smith hails anti-poverty convention

Scottish MEP has called for more action on inequality while welcoming a major anti-poverty conference in Brussels attended by over 700 people from charities across Scotland and Europe.

The (fourth) European Platform Against Poverty called on Europe's Member States to strike a balance between deficit reduction and social protection to achieve a 'triple A social rating' and avoid more people being pushed into poverty. Delegates, including European Parliament President Martin Schulz, argued that investment in social supports and services is as vital as economic growth.

Each year the European Commission makes recommendations to Member States on achieving Europe 2020 targets including reducing child poverty and unemployment. The UK has been heavily criticised over universal credit reform and its failed Youth Contract which was scrapped earlier this year.

Commenting, Alyn Smith said:

"The convention highlighted that the most financially stable countries are also the ones that invest in social justice. Tackling poverty and growing our economy are two sides of the same coin. That's precisely why Scotland must have the powers over tax and benefits

"With our limited powers thousands of young people have already taken up the Scottish Government's apprenticeships scheme. It's time we had all the job-creating powers devolved to Scotland if we want to give this generation of young people the best opportunities in life."

Marion Macleod, representing Children in Scotland at the event, said:

"It is essential that children’s rights and children’s wellbeing are seen as an integral part of any anti-poverty initiative. Last year, the European Commission issued its recommendation ‘Investing in Children – Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage’. This reinforced the importance of government at all levels protecting and prioritising expenditure on services that demonstrably improve the circumstances of, and outcomes for, children and their families.

"We know how experiences in childhood can have lifelong impact on health and wellbeing. Today is the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Even when public sector budgets are under pressure, supporting children to do well is one of the most effective investments governments can make."

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, was part of the UK Government delegation to the Convention. He was speaking at a session on the integration of services, highlighting the importance of involving those with experience of poverty in the revision of public services. He said:

“The Convention is an important opportunity to bring together policy makers and NGOs from across Europe to look at how we can tackle poverty. We were pleased to be invited by the Scottish Government to take part, as we have much to contribute from the Scottish experience, as well as much to learn.

"This Convention has shown that there is a need for more urgent action to address poverty, and that even in difficult economic times there is more that can be done. Poverty is a result of the political choices we make as a continent. It is high time we started to make different choices."