March 20, 2017 : Carla McCormack
Tackling poverty at a local levelIn the first of our series of guest blogs on the local elections, The Poverty Alliance explores what Councils can do to tackle poverty.
Local authorities have control of important levers to tackle poverty, and in recent months we have seen more and more councils taking up the anti-poverty agenda. Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Fife, Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and others have all undertaken a substantial amount of work in this area and we hope that in the coming months other local authorities will do the same.
In Glasgow the council, alongside partners, has developed a city-wide strategy for tackling poverty. This was developed alongside people with direct experience of poverty, and this participatory model gives the strategy a greater chance of succeeding. People with lived experience of poverty are the experts and they must be involved in the design and delivery of the services that affect them. The Poverty Alliance would like to see more local authorities commit to developing local anti-poverty strategies alongside people with direct experience in the coming year.
The Poverty Alliance will be working with people experiencing poverty over the coming weeks to develop our own series of asks for the local government elections. Local authorities are responsible for the delivery of many frontline services which people on low incomes rely on, and yet often local authority elections are seen as being less important – with turnout in 2012 coming in at less than 40 per cent.
Key areas of concern for our members include the universal provision of free breakfast clubs, a Scottish Welfare Fund that operates in line with the principles of dignity and respect, and high quality well paid jobs. Local authorities must make these priority areas for the year ahead. Too often we think of the solutions to poverty solely in reference to social security but services play an important role too.
By investing in high quality, flexible childcare local authorities can make significant in-roads in tackling child poverty, and assisting women back into the labour market. By improving awareness of the Scottish Welfare Fund, local authorities can ensure people are able to access the support they are entitled to instead of having to go to foodbanks to feed themselves and their families. By becoming accredited Living Wage employers, local authorities can ensure that even contracted out staff are paid a fair days pay for a fair days work.
Local authorities can also make a difference by poverty proofing their budgets. This would ensure that when tough financial decisions are being taken that people on the lowest incomes are not further disadvantaged. It should not be up to the poorest in our society to pay the price of cuts.
Local authorities must work with the private and third sectors to work towards tackling poverty. We all have a contribution to make and this starts by turning out to vote on 4 May. Make sure your voice is heard.