East Lothian Council has published a Draft 2021-2023 Poverty Plan and will be inviting views in a consultation to last for 12 weeks.
We want all of East Lothian’s people and communities to flourish. For that to happen we need to address poverty and the resulting inequalities.
The Draft plan and consultation was approved at a meeting of East Lothian Council on 22 June 2021 (item 5). A final draft of the Plan will be brought back to a subsequent meeting at the end of October.
The Council is particularly keen to hear from communities and individuals who have been affected by increasing levels of poverty as a result of the COVID pandemic.
The draft Plan has been drawn up by a multi-agency group including representatives from key council services, NHS Lothian and community and voluntary groups. It is based on the recommendations from the final report of the East Lothian Poverty Commission, taking into account all the work that has been undertaken to tackle poverty since the report was published in 2017 and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months.
The draft Plan is based around seven themes:
- In Work and not in Poverty – free from in work poverty
- Financially Included
- Having a Home
- Healthy and Well
- Empowered and Responsible.
The draft Plan acknowledges all the hard work and effort and additional funding that has been devoted over the last 18 months to support individuals and communities that have faced financial and food insecurity and growing levels of poverty as a result of the COVID pandemic lockdown. This has included the payment for Free School Meals and £100 Hardship payments over the Easter, summer, mid-term and Christmas holidays. A substantial community and voluntary effort also went into providing food and other essential supplies and support to people facing financial hardship or were unable to access food and other essentials due being shielded during last year’s lockdown.
The Council received funding from the Scottish Government to support people at risk and used this to establish a new Fuel Poverty Fund, reduce rent arrears of people affected by the pandemic, provide funding to support vulnerable families, children and care experienced young people, and offer substantial support for food initiatives across the county.
It has been able to carry forward just over £1m Scottish Government COVID funding for financial insecurity and to support people adversely affected by the pandemic lockdown into 2021/22.
Depute Council Leader Councillor Norman Hampshire said: “We want all of East Lothian’s people and communities to flourish. For that to happen we need to address poverty and the resulting inequalities. We believe this is a moral duty as well as a practical undertaking. Since the initial report of the East Lothian Poverty Commission in 2017 we and our partners have put considerable efforts into addressing the issues it raised. However it is important that we also reflect on how well the Plan is working and update it to reflect the passage of time.
“None of us could ever have imagined the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic would have, and continues to have, on our society. In particular it has had a profound impact on the livelihoods, opportunities and wellbeing of our citizens who are living in poverty. This is a timely opportunity to reflect on our Poverty Plan to ensure it responds to these challenge: addressing the experiences of the last 18 months alongside broader issues including housing and employment.
“I hope people and organisations across our communities will share their experiences and views with us as part of the 12 week consultation. Having this range of voices will make our plan stronger, making us more effective in understanding and tackling poverty with East Lothian.”
The main part of the draft Poverty Plan is an Action Plan, setting out 49 objectives/ actions that should be prioritised over the next two years.
1. In work and Not in Poverty – free from in-work poverty
The Plan is based on the need to create more job and more better paid jobs in East Lothian to reduce unemployment and in-work poverty. The actions under this theme are based around the economic development strategy and the City Region Deal, and work around employability and the Young Workforce.
2. Financially Included
Ensuring that people who do need financial support through benefits get access to advice and support and can access the benefits they are entitled to. This section also includes actions around Food Poverty and Period Poverty.
3. Having a Home
These actions based on the current and emerging new Local Housing Strategy – increasing the supply of affordable, good housing and reducing homelessness and fuel poverty.
Reducing inequalities in schools and closing the poverty related attainment gap, addressing food insecurity among children, reducing the digital divide, increasing access to sport and activity, and supporting local Support from the Start initiatives.
5. Healthy and Well
The actions in this section aim to reduce health inequalities including improving access to adult and children and young people’s mental health services. It also includes an action to tackle the growing problem of social isolation.
This section covers connections in communities, digital connectivity and transport.
7. Empowered and Responsible
Starts with the very important commitment to ensure that people with lived experience of poverty have an input in the development of the plan and policies and monitoring their progress. It also includes commitments to community empowerment.
Extensive consultation on the draft Poverty Plan will take place over the next 12 weeks to assess whether the draft Plan has the right priorities and actions, hear what lessons can be learned from their experiences of communities and people affected by poverty, and what they think need to be prioritised over the next two years to tackle poverty and break the cycle of poverty and deprivation.
A revised and final draft of the Plan based reflecting the issues and views raised by the consultation will be brought to a full meeting of East Lothian Council in October for approval.
Details of the consultation and how people can contribute will be issued soon.