Expert Group Sets Out Vision To Tackle Poverty In Fife

November 30, 2015

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An independent Commission, chaired by Carnegie UK Trust Chief Executive Martyn Evans, has set out a far-reaching vision to eradicate poverty in Fife. ‘Fairness Matters’ the report of the Fairer Fife Commission, is recommending an ambitious plan to help 75,000 Fifers.

The report challenges Council, public services, charities and businesses in Fife to work together to deliver a “significantly fairer Fife by 2030.” It makes more than 40 recommendations, including a push on building more affordable housing, encouraging a million more hours of volunteering a year, creating a new apprenticeship for every £1 million of public expenditure in Fife, a call for free travel cards for low income families, and more support for people facing welfare benefit sanctions,

The Fairer Fife Commission was established by Fife Council in September last year to examine the root causes of poverty in local communities and make recommendations on how best to tackle the issue. Chaired by the Trust’s Martyn Evans, membership was made up of senior figures, who gave up their time freely, from across public, private and voluntary sectors.

At its launch today at the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy, the report was formally handed over to Fife Council Leader David Ross, who welcomed the report, calling it “a document of huge significance for Fife.”

Cllr Ross added: “We estimate that around 75,000 people are directly affected by poverty in Fife – a situation that is completely unacceptable in the 21st century. But the impact, the cost and the loss of potential through poverty are things that concern us all.

“We  set up this independent Commission  to bring together expertise and knowledge from across Scotland, to help us tackle this blight on our society, and consider how the council and its partners  can make a real difference to people’s lives.

“This report is the result of a lot of hard work and thought and my thanks and appreciation go out to all the Commissioners who gave up their valuable time to focus on this project over the last year. Our pledge now is that the recommendations made here will shape the future direction of public services in Fife and will have a positive impact on people who need it most.”

The Commission met regularly over the course of the year focussing on issues including financial capability, welfare advice, transport links, employability skills, childcare provision, early years services, educational attainment, health inequalities, housing and homelessness and addressing stigma. They heard evidence from looked after children, users of foodbanks, people suffering the effects of sanctions, and others whose lives are affected by poverty.

Chair Martyn Evans commented: “It was a great privilege to be asked to Chair the Fairer Fife Commission. I am grateful to my fellow Commissioners for the commitment, energy and expertise that they brought to this process. I am also grateful to the many citizens and organisations across Fife who took time to submit evidence and share their views and experiences about what can be done to tackle inequality in Fife and make it a fairer place to live and work. Their input has been critical in shaping our final report.

“We have set out an ambitious set of recommendations for Fife Council and its partners in the public, private and voluntary sector.

“These proposals are challenging and will require new ways of working across many areas of policy and practice. Our vision requires the capabilities and views of citizens to be placed at the heart of service delivery. Decisions must be clearly informed by the data and evidence about what works. There should be transparency and openness about the progress made. And there must be shared sense of purpose and commitment from all those in Fife whose work can impact upon fairness.”

The Commission defines a Fairer Fife as somewhere “where all residents have the capability to live good lives, make choices and reach their full potential and where all children are safe, happy and healthy.”

The report’s recommendations are collated under eight themes – A Fairer Fife is: ambitious, poverty-free, fair work, affordable, connected, empowered, skilled and healthier. One of the key recommendations concludes that the council and its partners should be more ambitious in the work they do, aiming to be one of the best performing local authority areas in Scotland where “people feel enabled, supported and confident to access the opportunities available.”

Other recommendations include:

  • Establishing a Knowledge Hub to become a centre of excellence in translating data on fairness in Fife into practical action
  • Strengthening partnerships with the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) to improve the local welfare system and create trust between those looking for work and job centres
  • Making more use of participatory budgeting in communities to guide spending
  • Increasing the number of people who are members of Credit Unions to 30,000 by 2030
  • More emphasis on reducing the educational attainment gap by working with all Fife schools individually
  • Establishing a pilot project to help those suffering from stress and anxiety as a result of their circumstances, particularly people who are living alone

The report is being launched at the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy, a location deliberately chosen by the Commission in recognition of the fantastic work it does to help the most vulnerable. Several Commissioners visited the Centre as part of their work to gather evidence earlier this year and were extremely impressed by the wealth of positive stories they heard.

Manager of the Centre is Pauline Buchan. She commented: “We’re delighted to host the launch of Fairer Fife Commission report. It’s an important step for all organisations in Fife who are working to help people affected by poverty.

“Our communities are strong and do a lot to help each other but they desperately need more support and investment to get through these hard times.”

Fife Council Leader David Ross is confident the Commission’s recommendations will help achieve the council’s vision of a “better, stronger, fairer Fife.”

He concluded: “This is a real milestone in the fight against poverty in our communities. It’s reassuring to receive confirmation from experts in the field that Fife is doing some great work but there is much more to be done.  We are now going to build on that to develop and implement further practical action to reduce poverty in our communities.”

Fairer Fife Commission members:

– Director of BT Scotland, Brendan Dick

– Director of the Glasgow Centre for Population and Health, Professor Carol Tannahill

– Director of One Parent Families Scotland, Satwat Rehman

– Director in Scotland of the Child Poverty Action Group, John Dickie

– Professor of Strategic Urban Management and Finance, Professor Duncan Maclennan

– Chair of the Scottish Health Council Committee, Pam Whittle CBE

– Global Research Policy Advisor, Oxfam GB, Dr Katherine Trebeck

– Director of Delivery, NHS Scotland, George Dodds

– Stakeholder Manager (Scotland), Working Links, Nicholas Young

Dr Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation acted as a special advisor to the Commission and Fife Council’s Chief Executive Steve Grimmond also attended Commission meetings.