Tackling child poverty a priority

THE Campaign to End Child Poverty have published the first ever map of Scotland showing the rates of child poverty across every ward, council and constituency and it doesn’t make for comfortable reading.

It is the first time that these figures have been published in Scotland to provide a picture at such a local level and they show that nearly half of Scottish local authorities now have wards where over 30% of children live in poverty. And almost every local authority contains wards where more than one in five children live in poverty.

Set in this national context, despite being a low wage area, the Borders is faring better than many. The Hawick/Denholm ward is the only one where over 20 per cent of its children are being brought up in homes where families are in receipt of benefits and/or the family income is less than 60 per cent of median income before housing costs are taken into account.

Figures for the ten Borders wards are: Hawick/Denholm 26 per cent; East Berwickshire 17 per cent; Galashiels 17 per cent; Kelso 14 per cent; Jedburgh 14 per cent; Hawick/Hermitage 13 per cent; Mid Berwickshire 12 per cent; Selkirk 10 per cent; Tweeddale nine per cent; and Leaderdale/Melrose nine per cent.

David Cressey, Scottish Borders Council’s head of housing and community justice, said: “The report rightly demonstrates that Scottish Borders fares significantly better than on average throughout the UK at 13% compared to 20.9% of children throughout the UK living in child poverty.

“However, the council, along with its partners in the Strategic Partnership against Poverty are actively working together to reduce the impact of poverty in the Scottish Borders.

“Children, as part of family groups are most affected when the income of the family is reduced. To that end the council is focusing its effort of maximising income and helping to reduce costs for low income families.”

The initiatives include: giving advice and assistance to low income families on reducing the cost of heating a home; the provision of debt education to social work and other agencies; the implementation of the Berwickshire CAB Youth Project giving advice to young people on debt and financial matters; working with Macmillan Partnership and Welfar Benefits Service to maximise income; providing people with mental health issues with a specialist welfare benefit service; training front line staff to identify customers on low income and guiding them to relevant agencies for help; and appointing someone to help people become employable.

“This success has only been possible due to the excellent partnership working that exists between Scottish Borders Council, the Citizens Advice Bureau, NHS Borders, our partner Registered Social Landlords and other local organisations committed to tackling poverty and social inclusion,” added Mr Cressey.

“However, despite all the positive action that has taken place to tackle poverty the Scottish Borders is not exempt from the effects of the global economic recession. Officers are now reviewing the strategy and its effectiveness in light of the new challenges and propose to bring back a full progress report on delivering the current strategy along with any proposed changes in February 2012.”

SBC is also supporting the take-up of Capital Credit Union membership in the Scottish Borders to tackle poverty in the region. The Strategic Partnership Against Poverty has been working with credit union to deliver this plan, providing those on low incomes with a reputable source of credit at reasonable interest rates.