Renfrewshire unveils £6m poverty blueprint
Renfrewshire Council is to be the first local authority in Scotland to set up a child poverty fighting fund after councillors unanimously approved the allocation of the scheme.
The £6 million package will target a range of areas in a bid to lift families out of hardship including transport, jobs, training, youth mental health, schools, housing, family support, regeneration and fuel and food poverty.
Around £280,000 of the pot will help parents meet costs like school trips and activities, and forms part of a proposed schools package that will also pump an extra £1.16m into the area’s literacy resources to cut the attainment gap.
The council will also launch a £410,000 task team of job experts to forge lasting links between pupils and the world of work and training, and will also initiate work that could reform outdated childcare arrangements.
The funding allocation comes months after the ground-breaking Renfrewshire Tackling Poverty Commission findings and recommendations were unanimously backed by councillors.
In March, the local authority provided an injection of £3.2m to take forward immediate priorities emerging from the report.
Councillor Mark Macmillan, Renfrewshire Council leader, said the £6m poverty fund “marks a unique and bold approach to tackling inequality at a local level”.
He said: “The Poverty Commission told us that the cost of the school day has a major impact on families who live below the breadline and I want to put a safety net in place to offer them immediate help with costs like materials, trips and other activities.
“More than half of our £6m poverty fund - £3.3m - will deliver a unique schools package to improve early years and close the attainment gap between high and low income households. Let me be absolutely clear – I want all of Renfrewshire’s children to have the same opportunities, and this allocation will see us step up investment in every stage of school.
“We’ll target support to high school pupils to develop our young workforce and make sure young people who live in poverty are supported and resilient. This will be done through a new, pioneering task force to make sure pupils can have a direct link into work and training, and will be backed up by a £400,000 youth mental health programmes in our high schools.
“We’ll also step up Renfrewshire’s literacy approach in our primary schools and bring it into line with the needs of local children. £1.16m will be pumped into improving reading, writing and parental involvement and will boost primacy school resources to make sure children from low-income households are given more intensive support and intervention to stop them falling behind.”
Cllr Macmillan added: “The Commission also told us that childcare hasn’t kept pace with changing work patterns or issues like zero-hours contracts and the fact it’s now a barrier to work and training is completely unacceptable. Families with children are the biggest group living in poverty, but are often unable to take on work due to inflexible and expensive childcare – so I welcome our £100,000 childcare investment that will offer immediate support and initiate detailed work to consider local childcare reforms.”
Key investment from the £6m fund:
The council will also deliver a Living Wage campaign with the Chamber of Commerce to drive payment of the living wage, and has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to ask for a meeting discuss a new work incentives pilot in Renfrewshire.
Work will also be taken forward with local organisations to tackle the stigma of poverty and with the NHS to look into how local health care locations and council support services could come together to benefit residents.
And the council will make sure major regeneration programmes such as City Deal and Paisley Heritage Asset Strategy build community benefits and good work practices in at all stages – including the procurement stage.