Perth and Kinross steps up fight against poverty
Efforts to combat the cost-of-living crisis were stepped up on Friday when the Perth and Kinross Anti-Poverty Taskforce met for the first time.
The meeting was followed by Perth City Leadership Forum’s Big Lunch, which saw businesses and other organisations come together to discuss the issues facing residents and how they can be addressed.
Councillors agreed to create the Anti-Poverty Taskforce last month in response to the deepening economic crisis. Its first meeting, at Dewars Centre in Perth, saw representatives from the local authority, partner agencies, charities and the third sector meet to discuss what can be done to reduce the immediate impact of the ongoing Cost-of-Living Crisis and the longer-term causes of poverty.
Opening the inaugural meeting, Perth & Kinross Council chief executive Thomas Glen said: “In 2019, it was estimated there were 5,155 children living in poverty. I don’t think anyone round this table thinks that has declined during Covid or the cost-of-living crisis.
“We are clear tackling poverty is something we must place at the heart of what we do.”
Council leader Grant Laing said the Taskforce has support from all political parties and that helping those in poverty requires a co-ordinated approach across all sectors.
He said: “There is a whole council approach to this as we all recognise the issue.
“We will always have an open door to listen – it is such a big issue there’s no point in trying to solve it in little groups.”
Issues raised at Friday’s meeting included the need to encourage more employers to pay the Living Wage, obstacles to work such as limited transport and rural poverty, as well as fuel and food poverty.
The meeting was chaired by Gareth Ruddock, chief executive of social enterprise Giraffe.
He said afterwards: “It was really encouraging to see the range or people and sectors recognised at such an important meetings.
“There is a lot of work ahead but as a group we are confident we can help the people who really need it.”
Following the meeting The Perth City Leadership Forum hosted its Big Lunch.
Chairman Mike Robison, who also attend the Anti-Poverty Taskforce, told attendees: “If there is a time to step up and help then this is it.
“Charities are our social safety net but after 12 years of austerity the cracks are bigger than ever – they need our help.
“The council has created an Anti-Poverty Taskforce and has contribute some funds already, but they can’t do it all. We all have a role to play.”
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.