Challenging poverty in North Ayrshire
Posted on 30 Sep 2021
In a decent and compassionate society, it’s not right that so many people are falling into the trap of poverty.
The current economic crisis linked to the pandemic has had a huge impact on residents in North Ayrshire. At the start of lockdown, the number of people claiming Universal Credit in North Ayrshire increased by 30%. This emphasises that things are sometimes outwith our own control – and that it can happen to anyone at any time.
This is the driving force behind North Ayrshire Council’s ambitious plans to build back the local economy better, fairer and greener through its approach to economic recovery and renewal.
Challenge Poverty Week, which runs from Monday, October 4 to Sunday, October 10, is a national campaign run by the Poverty Alliance designed to highlight the growing problem of poverty in Scotland, challenge stereotypes and showcase the solutions we can all get behind to help solve it.
North Ayrshire Council is proud to be supporting the campaign for the sixth consecutive year. That’s because it recognises the impact that poverty has across North Ayrshire’s communities – with some being home to the highest levels of deprivation across the country.
In previous years, North Ayrshire Council has been at the forefront with a host of pioneering initiatives directly aimed at tackling poverty and inequality. Significant highlights are as follows:
- In May 2020, North Ayrshire Council became the first Community Wealth Building Council in Scotland, dedicated to providing more local employment and a larger and more diverse business base to ensure that wealth is locally owned and benefits local people
- The Council continues to tackle the issue of holiday hunger by delivering an award winning Holiday School Meal Programme ensuring that every child, no matter their background, has access to a warm, healthy meal when they’re not in school. And, during the pandemic established a food voucher scheme valued at £20 per week for each child - £4 per day - to provide young people with nutritious food during the school holidays
- Investing in two Council-owned solar farms planned at former landfill sites in Kilwinning and Irvine. The solar farms are set to generate almost two-thirds of the Council’s energy needs and reduce Co2 emissions by over 850 tonnes per year making NAC one of the first local authorities to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030
- In 2017, North Ayrshire Council became the first local authority in the UK to provide free sanitary products in all secondary schools, and later extended the initiative to become the first local authority in the UK to offer free sanitary provision in all of its public buildings
- North Ayrshire Council is the first local authority to exempt Care Experienced young people from paying Council Tax
- And the first local authority to introduce dedicated mental health counsellors in all secondary schools
- The Council continues to run an enhanced ‘birth to potty’ resusable nappy scheme, saving families up to £1300 per child on the cost of disposable nappies, the first Local Authority to do so in the UK
- North Ayrshire Council is the first Scottish local authority to join the Wellbeing Economic Alliance – a global organisation dedicated to developing wellbeing economies with a focus on social justice and environmental change.
This year, on Monday, October 4, the Council will kick off Challenge Poverty Week by posting a video update on social media to share exactly how NAC continues to challenge poverty in North Ayrshire.
Then, on Tuesday October 5, there will be online social media highlights throughout the day featuring key facts and figures from the launch of the Council’s First Annual Community Wealth Building Report – a new economic model focused on wellbeing and inclusion.
The Council will use the CWB objectives to support the recovery and renewal of North Ayrshire by creating an economy that works for people, place and planet – by providing investment in local infrastructure, land and assets and developing local supply chains to create fair jobs and stimulate an inclusive economy.
Also during Challenge Poverty Week, keep an eye on North Ayrshire Council’s Facebook and Twitter pages to find out more about the Cost of the School Day initiative. With a dedicated working group established, the ground-breaking scheme and associated £500k funding is aimed directly at supporting vulnerable parents and their children by easing the burden of families who need help most.
An update will also be shared on uniform recycling stations which have gone from strength to strength over the past few years. Buying school uniforms for growing children can be an expensive business and uniform recycling services allow items to be swapped, bought for a reduced price or obtained for free.
The Council will also focus on its dedication to continue tackling food poverty in North Ayrshire via the recently opened network of community larders, part of our Community Wealth Building strategy.
And we will be highlighting the work the Council is undertaking over the next decade to improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock having set aside £5million for a sustainability and affordable warmth fund.
North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane said: “The pandemic has had huge implications for many families. Even before the virus we had high levels of deprivation and unemployment in North Ayrshire, and it is more important than ever that we work together to find solutions and eradicate the stereotypes and stigma of poverty.
“It is likely that we will feel the economic impact of Covid-19 for some time, but through our Community Wealth Building strategy, we are committed to supporting our local businesses build back, better, fairer and greener and helping our communities into fair jobs enhancing local wellbeing.”
North Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet roles were transformed in June last year to drive change in a post-Covid North Ayrshire. For the first time ever, the Council has a Cabinet Member with responsibility for addressing poverty.
Councillor Robert Foster, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care Partnership and lead member for Poverty said: “Challenge Poverty Week is something we take very seriously every year, as it gives us a great opportunity to promote our progressive, pioneering policies at the frontline of tackling poverty and to shine a spotlight on some of the fantastic services and community groups making a real difference locally.
“Everyone should be able to live a dignified life, and by turning compassion into action we can build back and work towards a solution to the problem of poverty and its effects on the people of North Ayrshire.”
To find out more about Challenge Poverty Week, visit www.challengepoverty.net or look out for the following hashtags on social media: #ChallengePoverty #NowIsTheTime