Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee heard an update on the work of the Tackling Poverty & Inequalities Strategic Partnership at its latest meeting.
Councillors also approved just under £1.3million of funding from the Fairer Aberdeenshire Fund and cash reservices to support projects over the coming year.
The approach to tackling poverty focuses on early intervention and prevention, focusing on the root causes of poverty and helping people build their capabilities through income maximisation, employability and promoting positive life chances.
Among the approaches guiding this work is the Child Poverty Action Report and plan, developed with a range or partners including NHS Grampian.
Reducing poverty is also a priority of the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership, as part of local outcome improvement plan work.
Introducing the report before councillors, Tackling Poverty and Inequalities lead Amanda Roe outlined some of the challenges faced by those in poverty.
“Whilst lots of work has been ongoing, there unfortunately has been increasing levels of poverty and inequality in Aberdeenshire and across Scotland as a result of the pandemic and other circumstances,” she said.
“This is being further exacerbated right now by cost of living increases and it’s likely we will see further impact on financial insecurity for families as food and fuel costs are continuing to rise.”
Despite the challenges, projects drawing funding of more than £19million have taken place to support more than 14,000 low income households, including:
A total of 127 low-income houses were supported to reduce fuel poverty through a ‘heat and eat’ scheme delivered by social enterprise organisation Scarf More than 7,500 people have accessed information and advice services A total of 1,750 adults and more than 1,000 young people have accessed support and opportunities that have improved skills and helped secure employment 287 digital kits to support low income households to become digit engaged. The average financial gain for those who have accessed support has been £697 per household
Over the next year, funding will be used to support various initiatives on a range of themes, including food insecurity, fuel poverty and housing, transport and active travel, digital inclusion and financial inclusion.
Other areas of work will include mental health and wellbeing, employability, and children and young people.
There will be support for a number of new and ongoing initiatives, including funding for two further Aberdeenshire advisors for Scarf, as well as further funding for the ‘heat and eat’ scheme.
Funding will also be used to support the write-off of fuel debts, as well as supporting wellbeing funds for housing, and to produce support information in alternative languages.
There will also be continuing funding for the Aberdeenshire Support and Assistance Team to support discretionary housing payment and crisis payments, and to support those with insecure immigration status.
Among the initiatives highlighted as good practice was the ‘Food and Finance’, a partnership between Aberdeenshire North Foodbank and Aberdeen Foyer.
The service gives users of the foodbank in Ellon the opportunity to access support around finance, employability and wellbeing through Aberdeen Foyer, and has supported nearly 3,000 households across Aberdeenshire to date.
Providing direct support plays a key part in tackling poverty, with community-based information and advice services having been led by the Citizens Advice Bureau Consortium since 2020, including online support and a free helpline number.
More recently, new roles have been established to support GP surgeries and currently provide support virtually, on the phone and face-to-face where required.
Other projects which have supported people in Aberdeenshire include the Quarriers Epilepsy Fieldwork Service, which provides support to children, young people and adults with epilepsy.
The service has supported people around employment, education and income maximisation, as well as providing training and awareness sessions to employers and services.
To support ongoing work, a digital assistant is to be recruited to support the strategic partnership’s work around digital inclusion.
This post will support people to access affordable connections, kit and develop digital skills.
The committee welcomed the work that has taken place across Aberdeenshire and that is planned for the coming year, highlighting concern about a rise in the number of children experiencing poverty.
The partnership will continue working with those who have experienced poverty to inform the future development of services.