A new report setting out actions to reduce child poverty in East Lothian has been agreed by councillors at a Cabinet meeting today.

The action report sets out a number of ongoing areas of work and future initiatives, which will help us together continue making a difference for the benefit of our children and young people.

It is estimated that 17% of children locally live in poverty. Addressing the issue is therefore one of East Lothian’s Council’s key strategic objectives.

The East Lothian Poverty Commission, established in 2016, highlighted the detrimental impact of poverty on children and families. In 2017, its publication ‘Challenging perceptions. Overcoming poverty’, outlined a series of recommendations, while urging local government to do more and empower local communities in addressing poverty issues. This approach was endorsed by East Lothian Council and East Lothian Partnership.

The new Child Poverty Action Report highlights that a number of actions have been taken by partners, including the council and Area Partnerships, such as:

  • Support for initiatives such as holiday play scheme provision and lunch clubs
  • Initiatives to promote healthy diet and lifestyle
  • Working with East Lothian Food Bank to distribute Red Boxes including sanitary products to local secondary schools
  • Developing East Lothian Council’s new Financial Inclusion Service.

Meanwhile, East Lothian Council is working to deliver the expansion of early learning and childcare hours from 600 hours to 1140 hours by August 2020, while East Lothian Works is working with key employability partners to develop local opportunities to return to education or training or find suitable employment while parents access the increased childcare hours. 

Council Leader Willie Innes said: “The Child Poverty Action Report 2019 underlines the importance of tackling the causes of child poverty. 

“The formation of the East Lothian Poverty Commission helped to focus minds and deliver a partnership approach to reducing inequalities within and across our communities, which is the council’s overarching aim.

“The new report highlights that a number of very positive initiatives have been taken forward, many being steered by our Area Partnerships, which bring local people and organisations together to deliver local priorities and community planning outcomes. Extending community engagement and decision-making has been a real priority of this council and the partnership approach being taken supports and complements our work as a council to invest in new affordable housing, improve the employability of the local workforce and tackle food poverty.

“At a time when East Lothian is one of Scotland’s fastest growing council areas, it is particularly important that we take focused action to tackle the many challenges associated with poverty, including steps to reduce unemployment, reduce the attainment gap and improve the life chances of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Addressing issues such as holiday hunger and developing new financial inclusion pathways are very welcome.

“There is clearly much more to do and the action report sets out a number of ongoing areas of work and future initiatives, which will help us together continue making a difference for the benefit of our children and young people, enabling them to achieve their potential and in so doing tackle the many challenges associated with poverty.” 

The report highlights that additional, focused action be taken including:

  • Rolling out the ‘Period Poverty’ Action Plan with particular actions for new mothers in need of sanitary products immediately post-birth
  • Expanding eligibility for Clothing Grants and increasing awareness and uptake of Health Start/Best Start grants
  • Implementing the Rapid Rehousing Plan offering families security of tenure
  • Continuing to offer free Active Schools Place to children and expand the programme to consider other ‘hidden’ costs of participation
  • Developing a new Financial Inclusion Pathway for pregnant women and families in East Lothian
  • Ensuring child poverty is considered as part of decision-making processes.
Published: Tuesday, 10th September 2019