West Lothian still struggles with poverty

West Lothian still struggles with the pockets of poverty rooted in the past, as startling new figures show.

By Stuart Sommerville, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 20th January 2020, 5:17 pm
West Lothian Council logo
West Lothian Council logo

A report by the Chief Social Worker details grim statistics of the way many live  today.

As the economy has modernised, jobs have gone and incomes for many have fallen.

With a population of 182,000, almost 9,000 people, or five per cent,  live in what are defined as some of the most deprived areas in Scotland , according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Highlighting the lasting legacy of “boom and bust” and the rapid de-industrialisation in the last century in the shale and coal industries the report said: “The  development of these ‘boom’ communities meant the loss of these industries was felt heavily, and this legacy has resulted in some small but prominent concentrations of deprivation.”

 The Social Work reports highlights  the scale of the task faced. Almost a quarter of children live in low income working families and experience poverty.

Around 22,000 households in West Lothian (28 per cent) are defined as fuel poor.

That means they are spending more than 10 per cent of their income on gas and electricity costs. 

A significant proportion of households are earning less than the average weekly wage; a quarter of West Lothian households earn less than £16,000 and approximately 38 per cent earn less than £20,000.

While coping with the legacy of its industrial past the county has also undergone rapid change and growth in the last decade.

The report details  “significant change over the last 10 years in demography, physical environment and its economy”.

 It adds:  “These changes have presented opportunities and challenges for West Lothian’s communities and the organisations that deliver services in the area.”

West Lothian had the ninth highest population in 2018, out of all 32 council areas in Scotland. Between 1998 and 2018, the population of West Lothian has increased by 18.9 per cent.

This is the second highest percentage change out of the 32 council areas in Scotland. Over the same period, Scotland’s population rose by 7.1 per cent.”

Work in the last year bringing together the council’s benefits department and the Advice Shop service under the banner of the Anti-Poverty Service has  enabled a more cohesive development of targeted help for the poorest parts of the county.