Deprivation index is biased towards urban not rural locations
EW figures showing levels of deprivation in Scotland should be treated with caution because they mask rural poverty, it is claimed.
The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) publication is a tool for identifying the places where people experience disadvantage in different aspects of their lives.
SIMD gives a ranking for 6,976 small areas, or data zones, which shows how deprived an area is compared with other areas.
SIMD is based on measuring poverty using geographical areas.
The index states that deprived does not only mean poor or low income. It can also mean people have fewer resources and opportunities, like health and education.
In rural areas people living in poverty can often be living next to those on high incomes within the geographical area SMID uses.
By measuring the average wealth in an area, SMID doesn’t pick up pockets of poverty in small, rural communities.
Dumfries and Galloway has sparsely-populated and remote rural areas as well as towns and urban neighbourhoods.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow’s Dumfries Campus reviewed local evidence to
inform Dumfries and
Galloway’s poverty strategy.
They used the results of SIMD, along with background data and other information, to look at where people experiencing deprivation live and what issues they face.
SIMD is helpful for decision-makers about how to target
resources but it needs to be used carefully in rural areas.
This is because data zones in rural parts are bigger than those in urban ones and pockets of deprivation are smaller in rural areas.
These are more likely to
include a mix of households experiencing different levels of deprivation.
Problems with transport and distance to employment and services are very important features of rural deprivation.
They are part of SIMD but have less influence on the overall SIMD rank compared with employment and income.
Jason Railton, Langholm
Initiative’s anti-poverty project manager, said: “New SIMD figures are demonstrating changing levels of deprivation around the country.
“However, it’s recognised that these figures are not necessarily applicable to rural areas like ours because our population is much more sparsely distributed.
“As a result, SIMD does not effectively measure levels of need in our kind of community and they can then be dismissed by policy makers when allocating resources.
“More than half of people on low incomes do not live in the 20 per cent most deprived areas.
“We have to be careful in the language we use around this. It doesn’t help people who live in deprived areas to hear the narrative that their places are ‘bad’ or ‘poor’.
“We also have to recognise that this system can do a dis
service to people who need support such as in our community.
“As such, we continue to work with our fantastic partners in the charitable and government sectors to ensure support is provided wherever it is needed.”
Colin Smyth, South of Scotland Labour MSP, said the high levels of poverty in communities in Dumfries and Galloway were “unacceptable”.
Parts of Dumfries Central, Summerville, Lochside and
Lincluden, Stranraer West and Stranraer East are all within the top 10 per cent most-
Parts of Annan East are in the second-most-deprived category.
However, Mr Smyth believes the report underestimates the scale of poverty because SMID often masked rural poverty.
He said: “After the constant Scottish government budget cuts suffered by councils and the welfare cuts from the UK government, I’m not surprised areas of Stranraer, Dumfries and Annan have featured in this report.
“The index shows where there are highly-populated areas with a concentration of people on low incomes.
“However, it fails to recognise that the population in rural areas is more spread out, with smaller pockets of real poverty not only in one area. I believe we would benefit from a different measure of rural poverty.
“It beggars belief that in 2020 your postcode can still be the determining factor in your quality of life.
“This is a result of years of complacency from SNP ministers and lack of investment in our communities.
“It must be a wake-up call to ramp up efforts by government to end these shameful inequalities.”