Anti-Poverty Taskforce to be created in Perth and Kinross
Councillors will be asked to approve plans to create a Perth and Kinross Anti-Poverty Taskforce and new cost-of-living strategy to tackle poverty when they meet next week.
They will also be asked to approve an additional £470,000 of funding to support those most in need over the winter period.
Perth & Kinross Council has identified poverty as one of its priorities in its draft Corporate Plan.
Approximately one in four children in Perth and Kinross live in poverty – more than 5,155 children.
Residents in rural areas can also face further pressures, with fewer job opportunities, limited availability of affordable housing and additional costs for goods and essential services.
On average, each household in Perth and Kinross will see their annual budget stretched by almost £3000 annually – around £250 per month – because of the cost-of-living crisis.
The Perth and Kinross Anti-Poverty Taskforce will see the council work with partner agencies, businesses, third sector organisations and communities to co-ordinate the response to the crisis.
The cost-of-living strategy sets out the council’s commitment to helping affected residents.
Key pledges include providing targeted funding to support the poorest households, helping residents access financial advice and support, and helping people access emergency food when necessary.
The additional £470,000 funding includes £150,000 to support organisations opening their doors to provide warm spaces and £170,000 for community groups and organisations to purchase and distribute warm home packs and provide food.
There will also be £120,000 for cost-of-living crisis payments to kinship and foster carers.
Perth & Kinross Council leader, Councillor Grant Laing, said: “We are on the precipice of a crisis that will hit our most vulnerable residents the hardest. Those who are already struggling to make ends could easily find themselves in an impossible situation.
“Although many consider Perth and Kinross to be an affluent area, we know there are pockets of real poverty and that even in areas of high employment, many are on low wages.
“We’ve committed additional funding to help residents already but know there is much more that needs done. Protecting our residents is our priority, and our Cost-of-Living strategy underlines our commitment to them.”
Councillor Laing added: “As a council, we have a duty to help but we don’t have a monopoly on wisdom.
“The Anti-Poverty Taskforce will feature input from us and our partner organisations such as the NHS and Police Scotland, as well as from residents, charities and community representatives. We want to know what is happening in our communities so we can target help where it is needed the most and how we can create better opportunities for our most disadvantaged.
“We saw the power of community during the Coronavirus pandemic and that resilience and support is needed again.”
It is proposed 18 members of the Taskforce are appointed with an independent chair. There will be five representatives from the council – including the leader– as well as representatives from Community Planning Partners, the third sector and private sector.
Perth City Leadership Forum chair Mike Robinson welcomed the proposed measures and the establishment of the Taskforce. He commented: “It is great to see PKC responding to this issue – people are genuinely afraid of what lies ahead, and it is vital that we look after those hardest hit if the area is going to prosper.
“We already have a quarter of families across Perthshire and Kinross facing hardship and that’s before the imminent energy price hikes. The Leadership Forum is working closely with the council and business and third sector leaders to try and help in any way we can. Everyone can play a role, from the supermarkets to businesses and individuals, and we would encourage anyone who is able to, to step up and get involved where they can.”
The council has already put mitigation measures in place for those affected by the cost-of-living crisis including establishing a Financial Insecurity Fund, ramping up investment in welfare rights, money and debt advice, increasing funds available for energy efficiency advice and making additional funds available for the provision of community food.
For the financial year 2022/23, through a mix of funding from the Scottish Government and council decisions, there has been an additional investment of £3.3m to mitigate the impact of poverty and the cost of living, with a further £4.5m on wider mitigating activity such as expansion of free school meals, meals during school holidays and home energy efficiency measures within council-rented properties.