Ewan Aitken: Help those in need out of poverty

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CyrenianS was pleased this week to host the announcement of Naomi Eisenstadt CB as the Scottish Government’s Poverty and Inequality Advisory. It is good news to see poverty and inequality much higher up the political agenda. It’s good to see that Dr Eisenstadt’s appointment has been largely welcomed by the other political parties.

We see the impact of poverty on people’s lives every day. The venue for the announcement was our Good Food depot from where we redistribute 30 tonnes of surplus supermarket food which feeds over 1500 people a week. That’s people who do not know where their next meal is coming from or, if they do, that’s only because the agencies we support are now supporting them in their time of need. Everyone needs to eat and without access to good quality food on a regular basis, the journey out of poverty is even more difficult. The issue of food poverty needs to be high on Dr Eisenstadt’s agenda.

Over six weeks between the middle of April and the end of May our Homeless Prevention service helped claim £102,000 in benefits and grants for people in real need who could not otherwise have obtained the support they were entitled to. A key part of their struggle is how hard it is to make claims, something that is only going to get worse with the present Westminster governments agenda of blaming and punishing those in poverty for their circumstances. A mark of a nation is how it walks with those in need. Right now, it feels like for many folk we walk with, that mark is not a good one. Access to support would be a second item on Dr Eisenstadt’s agenda.

For many, employment is key to a journey out of poverty. Last year Cyrenians helped over 1150 people into work through our employability services and our Co-ordination of the work of the Fort Kinnard Skills and Recruitment Centre. One of the biggest barriers our clients experience is a previous encounter with the criminal justice system. It seems that society wants people to reform but won’t yet play a part in that journey of change by giving folk a second chance. Definitely a third item for D Eisenstadt’s agenda

Cyrenians wish Dr Eisenstadt well in her role. We hope that she will be the “critical friend” of government she has described herself as so that those we see daily in great need can make their journey out of poverty to a place where they are more able to be who they can.

Ewan Aitken is chief executive of the Cyrenians