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Challenging poverty in North Ayrshire

Posted on 29 Sep 2020

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 5 to Sunday, October 11, 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 fifth 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.

The important truths will not be uncovered unless discussions are had with people who have lived experience of poverty. That’s why the Council set up the Fair for All Commission in June 2017 with the aim of ensuring the movement to tackle poverty has those who experience it at its heart – as well as challenging stereotypes and helping to reduce stigma.

Some other ways that the Council has challenged poverty over the past five years include:

  • Establishment of a Fair for All Youth Commission, to enable young people to be at the heart of the work we do, including reducing the cost of the school day
  • Better Off North Ayrshire programme engaged with over 1,000 local people to help people maximise their income. The scheme helped save an incredible £1,057,855 by helping people access energy grants and working out ways to write off energy debts while finding energy-efficiency savings
  • In a bid to tackle period poverty, North Ayrshire Council introduced free sanitary products in its secondary schools and later extended the initiative, becoming the first local authority in the UK to offer free sanitary provision in all of its public buildings
  • The award-winning Holiday School Meal programme that ensures every child, no matter their background, has access to a warm, healthy meal when they’re not at school
  • The We Work for Families programme, launched in partnership with the Lennox Partnership, provides parents support with debt, childcare and housing issues and helps parents plan and prepare for returning to work, including help with finding jobs
  • The launch of a new enhanced ‘birth to potty’ real nappy scheme that could save families up to £1300 per child on the cost of disposable nappies

This year, on Monday, October 5, Council Leader Joe Cullinane will kick off Challenge Poverty Week by hosting a live panel discussion on Facebook that will focus on Community Wealth Building as an approach to tackle poverty and achieve a wellbeing economy in North Ayrshire as we build back better, fairer and greener.

North Ayrshire Council became the first in Scotland to become a Community Wealth Building (CWB) Council, setting out 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 to develop local supply chains to create fair jobs and stimulate an inclusive economy.

The Council Leader will be joined by Sarah Deas, Trustee of the Wellbeing Economic Alliance (Scotland), and Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance for the discussion.

You can tune in to the broadcast on North Ayrshire Council’s Facebook page from 7pm and put questions to the panel live.

Also during Challenge Poverty Week, keep an eye on North Ayrshire Council’s Facebook and Twitter pages to find out how uniform recycling stations 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.

Over one million meals were delivered to families and vulnerable residents as a response to Covid-19. As part of the Community Wealth Building strategy, the Council are now looking at a new series of design experiments to build a whole systems approach to food.

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 we are committed to supporting our local businesses build back, helping our communities into fair jobs and enhancing local wellbeing.”

North Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet roles were transformed in June this 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 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 #TogetherWeCan