A new task force charged with reducing the number of young people in the Capital living in relative poverty has been set .
Around 22 per cent of children in Edinburgh live in relative poverty – defined as their household income being below 60 per cent of the average income. The council uses this as the benchmark for measuring poverty and the Scottish Government wants less than 18 per cent of children to be living in poverty by 2023 and reduced to 10 per cent by 2030.
The unit will not replace existing partnership arrangements – but will instead co-ordinate the city council’s action to address child poverty.
The unit will help form the council’s annual Local Child Poverty Action Report, which will be sent to the Scottish Government from June 2019.
The cross-party group will also play a leading role in implementing actions set out by the Edinburgh Poverty Commission. Cllr Ian Perry, Education, Children and Families Convener, said: “One of the administration’s 52 commitments is the creation of a Child Poverty Action Unit to tackle the inequalities faced by children in poverty in Edinburgh. An estimated 22 per cent of children are growing up in poverty in the Capital and it can be as high as 35 per cent in some areas so the agreement to set up the unit is a positive step forward.
“The work of the unit will build on existing partnerships and our ongoing 1 in 5 project which is proactively tackling child poverty, with leads in over 80 of our schools who are helping to reduce stigma and tackle the costs of the school day. Initiatives such as uniform swap shops, income maximisation advice and free sanitary products are all helping to raise awareness of child poverty and mitigate the impact in Edinburgh.
“We are aware that many families struggle with the cost of school holidays so we created a £250,000 fund from this year’s budget to address this by piloting Discover Hubs during the school holidays in addition, to supporting the 1 in 5 work taking place within schools. Feedback from the summer hubs has been really positive with both children and parents talking about eating more healthily, going out on family trips, making new friendships and feeling less stressed.”
Between August 2017 and July 2018, 63 families had received support from income maximisation, resulting in approximately £250,000 being raised in unclaimed benefits for these families. Free sanitary products will be available in all schools in Edinburgh to try and help alleviate period poverty.
Cllr Hal Osler welcomed the project and asked council officers what provision there is for looked after children outside of the school term.
She said: “The biggest concern a lot of us councillors have within our communities is, we have individuals who are looked after, we get to the holiday time and then we have absolutely no idea what actually happens to them.”
Linda Lees, the council’s lifelong learning strategic manager, said: “The holiday program, Discover, saw the first six hubs take place over the summer holidays this year.
“We are asking social workers and head teachers to make recommendations.”