Community and Third Sector organisations met with politicians on Wednesday 3rd of May in an anti poverty summit convened by the Scottish Government.
First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf, told all those attending that tackling poverty and inequality is the single biggest challenge facing Scotland. He said that ‘nothing was off the table’ in the government’s view in addressing the impact rises in the cost of living was having on Scots.
Around 90 delegates met together at the summit from a range of organisations and those directly affected by poverty. Amongst them were politicians from Scotland’s main political parties.
The First Minister has said that tackling poverty will require tough choices to be made in the Scottish Budget. Targeting funding and support to those most in need would be required.
Commenting after the summit Humza Yousaf said:
“We must be bold in considering future tax decisions. Tough choices will need to be made about existing budgets, and we need to consider whether targeting help is the way forward when money is so tight.
“It’s not enough to wish poverty away. We have to be hard-headed and realistic about what can be done – and then we have to focus on making it happen. That means the debate must now be about tax, targeting and tough choices. We are listening and will not shy away from the decisions needed to reduce poverty.”
Linda Craik from End Poverty Edinburgh was one of the delegates attending. She said that :
“To understand what POVERTY really is, you firstly have to think about the causes. People don’t “choose” to live in poverty, it’s not a lifestyle choice, and many find themselves in this situation, or on the verge of it, through absolutely no fault of their own.”
Linda Craik spoke at the summit and described to the delegates there what life was like her as an unpaid carer. She said that one of the major barriers to her was knowing where to start to get help.
“We’re not naïve, we know that there isn’t a bottomless pit of money for the Scottish Government to throw at this issue, but we do hope that you will create a true, cross-party plan to tackle all the aspects of poverty in our country.
“Poverty isn’t just about money – it’s about having decent homes to live in, jobs that pay a living wage, health, schooling, transport, looking after our elderly and disabled citizens etc so Poverty should and MUST be included in every Cabinet Secretary’s Portfolio! Words and commitments on paper are all very well but what is really needed are actions with tangible outcomes.”
Sally Thomas, the CEO of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) also took part in the meeting. She emphasised that social homes are fundamental to tackling poverty.
Last week the Scottish Government announced that £7.25 million of funding will be allocated to SFHA to further support members to tackle fuel insecurity with advice, energy saving items and crisis intervention.
The fourth round of the Fund will run until March 2024 and will support activities such as expanding the capacity of energy advice services, provision of energy efficiency measures, small appliances, and essential warmth items, fuel crisis intervention and debt relief.
The Fuel Insecurity Fund will be tripled to £30 million this year. As well as the £7.25million to the SFHA the money is allocated as follows: £9 million to enable Advice Direct Scotland to administer Home Heating Support Fund grants to those struggling with the rapid increase in gas, electricity and oil prices, and £8.5 million for the Fuel Bank Foundation to rapidly support more than 85,000 households, including those with prepayment meters and at risk of imminent disconnection
Conor Forbes, Director of Business Development and Policy at Advice Direct Scotland, said:
“We are delighted to be working with the Scottish Government again to support Scottish citizens struggling with the cost-of-living and energy bills. with the UK Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme coming to an end, many are finding themselves having to cut back on energy to afford other things.
“It’s important that anyone who is struggling reaches out for support.
“Advice Direct Scotland runs a number of services that can offer assistance in various areas related to the cost-of-living, including energy, debt, and support with benefits applications.”
COSLA is the body that represents Scotland’s Local Authorities. Commenting after the Poverty Summit, President of COSLA Councillor Shona Morrison said:
“The initiative from the Scottish Government is a good one and one which Local Government can get fully behind. Tackling poverty is a core objective for Local Government working in partnership with the Scottish Government, the third sector and public and private sector partners.
“The cost- of-living crisis we are living through at present is being tackled head-on by Councils the length and breadth of Scotland and partnership working is vital to achieving positive outcomes for individuals, families and our communities across Scotland.”