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Cost of school day at heart of Council's child poverty plan

Posted on 8 Oct 2020

REDUCING the cost of the school day for families will be one of the key priorities as North Ayrshire looks to lessen child poverty in the region.

Unemployment levels in North Ayrshire are high, and expected to rise in the coming months in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and almost a third of children in North Ayrshire already live in poverty.

And the Council have set out their plans for children and how they hope to reduce the burden on families over the coming months and years.

At a meeting of Cabinet on Tuesday, Councillors approved North Ayrshire’s second annual Child Poverty Action Plan.

It will drive forward the Council’s desire to reduce child poverty - by decreasing the cost of the school day and food as key themes.

The Council already has an acclaimed holiday school meal programme – replaced by a voucher scheme during the pandemic – and recently extended provision of free breakfasts to pupils in four secondary schools thanks to funding from the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

There is other work being carried out by local schools to reduce the cost to families. At Auchenharvie Academy, for example, they are poverty proofing the curriculum – to make sure all pupils have access to all resources and chance to go on trips - and it’s hoped innovative new proposals can be rolled out across North Ayrshire.

A new working group will look at how a coordinated approach can be taken throughout schools across the region.

The Council will also look at increasing the availability of affordable and energy efficient housing to reduce living costs. Rent levels in North Ayrshire  remain lower than the national average and neighbouring authorities and landlords, while solar panels have been installed in nearly 300 properties to assist with energy costs.

The North Ayrshire Food System will seek to give people more affordable access to food provision. The Whitlees Community Association has recently introduced their Pantry initiative, which is one of the type of models being developed in other areas of North Ayrshire too.

 As well as the cost of living, income from employment and income from social security and benefits are seen as the other main contributors of child poverty.

The Report highlights how Community Wealth Building – the new economic model adopted by the Council – will help create new, well paid jobs and the principles of this approach will be key to making our local economy much more resilient.

 Councillor Robert Foster,  Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care Partnership and lead member for Poverty said: “It is wrong that any child should live in poverty but it’s an unacceptable reality that we face right now. Unless proper and targeted measures are in place it will only get worse in light of the situation we currently find ourselves in.

 “Unless proper and targeted measures are in place it will only get worse in light of the situation we currently find ourselves in.

 “We have to help and support families as much as we can. We need to break the cycle that currently exists and give children the chance to thrive and live life to their potential.

 “The economy and poverty are clearly linked and we need to get that right first. That’s why Community Wealth Building is so important to me. It gives us a real chance to reconnect the economy with social justice. To create new, well paid jobs and make our local economy much more resilient. That will help our young people.

 “We will also need to make the school day cheaper, more affordable for everyone. School should be a place where every child goes with the same opportunity. They shouldn’t be disadvantaged because they don’t have access to same resources to others in same class. That’s not right.

 “We have made strides in this area and a new working group will see how we can take this further and ensure the cost of the school day does not impact on families and the ability of our young people to learn.”

 You can see the full report here