Edinburgh praised for progress on poverty, but more work to be done
Efforts to tackle poverty in Edinburgh have put more than £20 million into the pockets of residents who need it most, according to a report considered by the Policy and Sustainability Committee yesterday.
The third annual End Poverty Report looks at how Edinburgh is responding to the recommendations put to the city by the Edinburgh Poverty Commission in 2020.
Alongside ramped up work to help local people access grants and national welfare advice services, this year’s report details positive collaboration between the council and partners which has led to:
- Supporting 4,150 people into work or learning
- Recording an improvement in positive destinations from schools and a reduction in the poverty related attainment gap
- Increasing the number of young people supported through Free School Meal and Uniform Grant programmes by 61%
- Delivering £2.2m of Scottish Welfare Fund payments for people in crisis, alongside £300k of council support for local foodbanks
- Introducing a new tenant hardship fund, alongside wider support like benefits checks, to support council tenants who are struggling to pay their rent
- Securing £206k in savings for council tenants through Energy Advice Support
- Investing over £119m in new affordable homes and improving existing homes and neighbourhoods; delivering 54 new homes for social rent plus 148 for mid market rent
- Delivering poverty and homelessness prevention training to housing officers, community centre workers, librarians, parent and family support workers, health visitors, police officers, midwives, family nurses and other public sector employees
- Working with employers to encourage take up of the real living wage, exceeding target to see 677 employers signed up in Edinburgh.
Council leader Cammy Day said: “We have shown in the last three years that when we come together as a city, we can make a real difference. And this difference really can be life changing.
“We’ve achieved a lot, and we’re committed to carrying on this work with our partners. But these last few years have also been a time of financial crisis. The cost of living remains high, we’re hurtling towards another winter where households will face money worries and we’re at risk of the city’s wealth divide growing.
“For all our combined efforts I remain concerned that poverty in Edinburgh could rise again. Without additional urgent action, one in five children in this city - Scotland’s most affluent city – will continue to grow up in poverty.
“I’ll be calling on the Scottish Government to join us in taking action to eradicate poverty, and to support our efforts to create the additional affordable housing we desperately need. We must work together to deliver the great deal of work that is needed, to ensure the very best future for Edinburgh’s children and young people.”
Acknowledging areas of progress and calling for efforts to be stepped up, the End Poverty Edinburgh group added: “We see early signs of a change in attitudes regarding user-led services and seeking the advice of those with lived experience of poverty. There seems to be a real desire to involve people living on a low income in how the council does its business, and we very much welcome this.
“We have also been encouraged by new and developing services and schemes, such as the Regenerative Futures Fund, which sought out the views of people with lived experience early on. We believe that including those with real-life experience is key when attempting to develop new or better services, whether that be improving housing conditions or tackling food poverty.
“Treating people with dignity and respect should be the very least expected of staff on the frontline, and we are pleased to not only see efforts being made to ensure this is the case through implementation of training, but also in the delivery of services themselves. We also welcome steps taken to implement the Living Hours Scheme in Edinburgh.
“Despite there being progress to celebrate, there are many areas we have still to make an impact on. Edinburgh desperately needs an increase in quality social housing, accessible social housing, and genuinely affordable housing. We believe the housing situation in Edinburgh is crucial to tackle, and that more support is needed from the Scottish Government. Improving the housing situation in Edinburgh would undoubtedly have one of the biggest impacts on those experiencing poverty, so this must remain a priority.
“So, as we welcome and celebrate the areas of progress towards eradicating poverty from our city, we call to capitalise on this emerging momentum and step up our efforts for the years ahead.”