East Ayrshire’s Community Planning Partners' key messages for Challenge Poverty Week are:
- too many people in East Ayrshire are living in poverty
- poverty in East Ayrshire is not inevitable and can be solved
- poverty has no place in a Kinder, Fairer, Connected East Ayrshire
- East Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership pledge to unstintingly work to tackle poverty and its impact on our communities
Challenge poverty week
Challenge Poverty Week is organised by the Poverty Alliance. Its aims are to:
- challenge the stereotypes of the kind of people living in and affected by poverty
- highlight and showcase the solutions to poverty, and
- increase public support for action to solve poverty
The Community Planning Partners fully support the Challenge Poverty Week initiative, and are actively involved in campaigning to challenge poverty.
What we are doing
The Community Planning Partners are supporting Challenge Poverty Week and their aim to highlight the growing problem of poverty, the causes of poverty and offer solutions to poverty.
Eddie Fraser, the Director of East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Fiona Lees, the Chief Executive of East Ayrshire Council, Councillor Maitland, Councillor Reid and others are making a commitment to “unstintingly work to tackle poverty and its impact on our communities” by signing a pledge at a series of events to be held across East Ayrshire.
These events are being attended to demonstrate the Community Planning Partners' commitment to working towards creating a just and compassionate society, where it is not acceptable for people to be trapped in the grip of poverty or put in impossible situations such as having to choose between heating their home or paying their rent.
All members of the community are invited along to the pledge signing events where information and assistance will be available on benefits, fuel poverty and financial assistance to those who want it.
Schedule of events
Challenge Poverty Week 7-13 October 2019
Mon 7 October 2019
New Cumnock primary school
Burns Mall, Kilmarnock
Tues 8 October 2019
Netherthird Community Centre Cumnock
Muirkirk Primary School
Wed 9 October 2019
Carer’s Centre, Dalmellington
Thurs 10 October 2019
Developing Opportunities Together (DOT), Newmilns
Fri 11 October 2019
Stewarton Area Centre
What you can do
Challenge Poverty Week is a real opportunity for your own community to get involved and challenge poverty. Visit the Challenge Poverty or Poverty Alliance websites for more information.
You can also follow us, like and share on Twitter and Facebook. The campaign hashtags are #ChallengePoverty #AyeWeCan
Child poverty action group
Paying for electricity and gas can be really difficult at any time of year; but as winter approaches the problems get worse. It pays to consider changing your energy supplier to one who can help with reducing fuel costs.
Citrus Energy specialise in advising and helping customers reduce costs and offer the following advice on some energy issues that households commonly face.
Charges when you are not using gas or electricity
If you have a prepayment meter and haven’t been topping-up for a while there is likely to still be a charge registering on the meter as a debt. This charge is a ‘standing charge’ which most suppliers will charge each week even if you’re not using fuel. It is a charge to cover their distribution costs and running costs not for the energy you are using.
Citrus can speak to your supplier get this debt re-arranged to get you back on supply.
Emergency top-ups for electricity and gas
If you are on a very low income finding funds for energy before your next payment can be difficult.
Citrus can help negotiate with your supplier to get an advance that will keep you ‘switched on’.
Warm Homes Discount (WHD), Fuel Hardship Applications and Other Funding Support
When cold weather bites you may not know about. The help with fuel costs that are available.
Citrus can apply for support on your behalf. If you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit you maybe entitled to a payment of £140 from the WHD.
Making sure people have enough to eat
Across Scotland, more and more people are turning to food banks to help feed themselves and their families. When you ask why this is happening, the answer is rather obvious - people are going to food banks because they don’t have enough money to afford necessities.
Over two-thirds of the 1,583,668 food parcels given out by Trussell Trust food banks last year were given out primarily due to problems with people receiving their benefits or because their benefits weren’t providing them with enough money to live on. It might seem like there isn’t much local communities can do about benefits, but really there are many things local services and individuals themselves, can do.
It is vital that anyone who requests a food parcel also understands what social security they are entitled to and knows where they can receive support to challenge unfair decisions or hurry sluggish bureaucracy. Referral services can help people find out what they are entitled to and support them to seek independent advice if, for example, it’s taking too long for money to come through or a decision feels wrong.
The local advice agency should be able to advise if someone is getting all the social security benefit they are to, can help challenge incorrect decisions, and provide support to hurry things up if they are taking too long. People can also ask for the support of their local MP, or file a complaint with the Department of Work and Pensions if things aren’t working as they should.
Sometimes it feels no-one listens or cares when we are facing real hardship but we do have a say. There are things we can all do, whether we are campaigners, advisers, or someone who’s run out of money. The social security system is far from perfect. The fact that so many people are turning to food banks as a direct result of issues with the system make that plain. But there are ways to improve the system and push it to work better. We need to keep pushing. We need a better social security system, not more food banks.
Poverty and transport
A few thoughts on of the issues around transport facing people living with very limited incomes.
- People on low incomes disproportionately rely upon public transport. Residents who reply on public transport comment on the high cost with the average cost of an adult return fare travel from Irvine Valley to Kilmarnock between £6 and £10 per day.
- Fragmented and unreliable bus service provision results in areas being poorly connected - East Ayrshire has a number of rural communities which are poorly connected to the larger towns. The length of the journey time from Kilmarnock to Muirkirk is 1 hour 24 minutes with an hours travel time between Muirkirk and Ayr.
- Less frequent bus services in certain areas impact on people’s ability to access essential services like health, education, training and social security. Local residents ell us that limited access to transport affects the ability to access a range of services including health appointments, employment, education and training opportunities.
- Poor access to major supermarkets can mean people are forced to pay higher prices for food and with most larger supermarkets, including lower costs supermarket chains, located in the main town they can be costly to access using public transport, adding to the cost of the weekly shop.
- For people seeking employment the cost of transport limits their employment options and ability to look for work.
- The already high cost of transport is disproportionately higher for people in low paid employment - financial inclusion partners in East Ayrshire recognise the impact this has on residents and has resulted in additional support being offered to maximise income.
Ayrshire East Foodbank – feeding people in crisis
Ayrshire East Foodbank is a Trussell Trust affiliated foodbank managed by the CVO (East Ayrshire) Ltd with eight distribution centres across the authority.
The centres in Kilmarnock are based at Belford Mill, St Matthews Church and Onthank Community Centre. There are further centres in St John’s Church in Cumnock, St Columba’s Church in Stewarton, Rankinston Community Centre and The Zone in Dalmellington along with a warehouse and distribution centre in Darvel. All of the distribution centres are manned by volunteers.
For the past few years these centres have been supporting between 5000-7000 people each year. Three days worth of meals are distributed at a time and pack sizes vary depending on the numbers in the family. All the food comes from donations from the public, especially churches, schools, local organisations, and businesses. Donations are continually needed as over three tonnes of food is distributed every month.
Over ninety organisations from both the public and third sectors currently refer people to the foodbank. Any organisation working with people in need can register as a referrer.
Ayrshire East Foodbank are also able to support people to maximise their benefits with the help of a specialist advisor seconded from the local authority.
Donations can be handed in at Belford Mill from Monday to Friday between 9 am and 4.30pm. Tel: 01563 574000 http://cvoea.co.uk/
Accessible finance - Ayrshire Credit Union
We’ve all seen the advert. In the middle of a busy day mum or dad are left with an exploded car or a broken freezer. An easy credit company swoops in to save the day, bringing with it a promise of swift cash, but they don’t tell you about the real cost. They don’t explain what will happen if you miss a payment. An APR of 1245% is hidden in tiny little letters at the bottom of the screen. Read that again.
Then there are doorstep lenders who give you money there and then and hope you’ll be so relieved you won’t see the fine print about interest or admin costs.
The same goes for hire purchase stores. They claim that the cooker you buy from them is the same price as the one in the conventional store, but what they only mention (in small print) is that they’ll be adding a lot of interest to that initial price.
All this eats into family finances and can result in hardship and debt that can force families in need into a downward spiral. It doesn’t need to be like that and credit unions can help break that cycle
Being a member of a credit union can give you access to low cost credit when you need the money and allows you to save at the same time. As your loan gets smaller so does the amount of interest you pay. You are encouraged to build on savings, taking advantage of the free life savings insurance as well as the free loan insurance.
In East Ayrshire there are two credit unions. Ayrshire Credit Union based in the Foregate in Kilmarnock and Sovereign Credit Union in the Square in Cumnock.
There are no hidden costs and the volunteers will always look at how best to suit your needs. With starter loans of between £300 and £500, it’s maybe time to give them a look. You can access Ayrshire Credit Union by contacting 01563 555858 or online at www.ayrshirecreditunion.co.uk whilst Sovereign Credit Union can contacted on 01290 420044 or at www.sovereigncu.co.uk (by Tom McWhirter)
The UK Government’s austerity and welfare reform agenda have had a devastating impact to date on those who are of low income and have to rely on social security benefits to get by each week. Throughout this time there has been a common perception amongst the general public that those over retirement age are far better off. After all their benefit entitlement hasn’t been affected by welfare reform and they continue to receive their annual increase in their pensions.
However nothing could be further from the truth. Pensioner poverty is on the rise with the UK Government figures confirming that 4 in every 10 pensioners do not claim Pension Credit – a means tested benefit that could top up pensioners income. In Ayrshire alone that equates to as much as £28m going unclaimed each year.
Many pensioners who have an illness or disability that means that they require additional support with their personal care are not claiming Attendance Allowance, a benefit designed to help them with the additional cost they incur are as result of their medical condition. These can be for things like a special diet or additional heating costs due to them spending more time in the home than previously. Little wonder therefore that Age Scotland reports that half of all single pensioners and 4 in 10 pensioner couples are living in fuel poverty, with many having to choose between heating and eating. Those living in rural communities more likely to be affected.
By cutting back on the essentials, especially food or heating, an older person is more likely to develop or exacerbate existing medical conditions, including their mental health. They become withdrawn and socially isolated which in turn affects the resources, financial and otherwise of local councils and the NHS who provide the social care services and address the health implications of older people living in poverty.
With winter approaching, this is a particularly difficult time for older people. Over the winter period between December 2017 and March 2018, the number of older people who passed away increased by 4,797 than the average over the rest of the year. The UK and Scotland is a rich nation and it is to our shame that poverty amongst older people is on the rise. But there are things we can do to tackle this blight on our society.
In East Ayrshire, along with our partners in the Poverty Action Group, we will be working on the development of a plan of action to tackle fuel poverty and seeking to identify those older people who are missing out on their full benefit entitlement.
In the meantime, if you think that you know of an older person who may be entitled to additional benefits or is struggling to heat their home, you can make a referral to the EA Money helpdesk, online at www.eamoney.co.uk or by freephone on 0800 389 7750. Or to make a claim for Pension Credit, call 0800 99 1234
A few months ago, along with our partner organisations in the Poverty Action Group, we undertook a series of events throughout East Ayrshire to try and identify the issues caused by poverty in the different local communities to identify the issues facing a child living in a family on a low income.
Over one in every four children in East Ayrshire is currently living in poverty – a total of around 7,000 children. That is 7,000 too many. Two-thirds of those children live in households where at least one member of the family is working.
The children of today are our future and their success will pay for the pensions of tomorrow’s pensioners yet we as a society let child poverty adversely affect the life opportunities of our children. Poverty doesn’t just affect their childhood but their experiences in those years of development will greatly affect their adult life. Children living in poverty are more likely to experience stigma and bullying at school. It affects not only their physical health but also their mental health, leaving them with low self-esteem and a sense of worthlessness. They are more likely to miss out on school activities that cost money, such as school trips or fundraising days, leaving them excluded from their class mates and affecting friendships which can leave them socially excluded from their peers. A hungry child will lack the concentration to learn. In these days where technology plays a major part in our education system low income families may not have the resources to allow their child to access a computer to do their homework. They may not have the learning opportunities , leading them to under achieve at school which in turn restricts their opportunities to move into further education or obtain good, well paid employment.
In East Ayrshire our Poverty Proofing Our Establishments programme is seeking to tackle these issues and more with a number of schools coming up with innovative yet simple ideas to help out our children. This can be from breakfast clubs to providing facilities for the washing of clothes and much, much more.
East Ayrshire Council along with our Community Planning Partners is also committed to meeting the stringent targets set by the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty strategy which legally has to eradicate child poverty by 2030. They have introduced a new Best Start Grant, paying out £250 for every qualifying child when they are born; start early learning and also start school. They have also pledge to introduce a new benefit, a Scottish Child Payment from 2021 which will initially pay out £10 per week for every child under the age of six whose family receives a qualifying benefit, with the roll out to all children under the age of 16 by the end of 2022. It is estimated that this with take 30,000 children in Scotland out of poverty.
Poverty is not just about money. There are wider issues at stake such as transport costs, cost of school clothing, access to services which all can make it difficult for people to escape poverty. Challenging Child Poverty is a priority for East Ayrshire Council and in conjunction with our partner agencies we will commit to doing whatever we can to ensure that families have all the income that they are entitled to make child poverty a thing of the past.