Colin Smyth MSP
Over £2.5m of measures aimed at tackling poverty in Dumfries and Galloway have been outlined in the Labour Administration’s budget plans.
The proposals will be part of the budget to be considered next week at a meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Council and include:
A £350,000 ‘Local Anti-Poverty fund’ to be allocated to local community projects such as food banks by Area Committees.
£400,000 to develop free breakfast clubs in primary schools across the region.
£250,000 to close the gaps in the provision of anti-poverty support identified by the current ‘mapping’ exercise being carried out by the Council’s new Anti-Poverty Officer,
A £1.458m ‘Links to work’ scheme -; a new programme aimed at providing intense support for people living in poverty to help them back into work.
The funding for the first three projects comes from the £1 m anti-poverty fund set aside by the Labour Administration to implement the first ever Dumfries and Galloway Anti-poverty strategy.
The £1.5m ‘Links to Work’ scheme will be funded using £637,000 from the Council’s Neighbourhood Renewal fund, drawing down £583,000 from the Council’s European Social Fund (ESF) grant allocation and £238,000 sourced from partnership contributions from the third sector.
The ‘Links to Work’ proposal has a number of key elements including community engagement were outreach staff based in local communities will use a range of methods of engagement to extend services to those most vulnerable and hard to reach groups, identifying needs and encouraging supported engagement with services, learning and appropriate support towards eventual employment.
Informal and certificated accredited training will be offered including access to core skills, digital literacy, the D&G Employability award, volunteering awards and parenting. In addition, support will be provided to maximise income to ensure that anyone helped into work also accesses in work benefits to ensure they are better off in employment. Support will also be provided for childcare and parenting skills and utilising these to offer access to The Peep Progressive Pathway.
Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Ronnie Nicholson said, “I am proud of the fact that we have developed the region’s first ever Anti-Poverty Strategy which is already making a real difference to many people’s lives. As part of that strategy this Administration ensured Dumfries and Galloway Council became the first Living Wage accredited council in Scotland and recently we scrapped all charges in schools for home economics and technical subjects.
These latest proposals build on those early achievements under the strategy and will support some of the most vulnerable families in our communities.
The ‘Local Anti-Poverty Fund’ will allow Area Committees to focus more resources to local groups working to tackle poverty on a daily basis in our communities. This is over and above Area Committee’s existing budget and because it will be ring-fenced for anti-poverty measures, groups won’t have to compete with the many other demands on Area Committee funds and end up losing out as we seen in the past.
The commitment to roll out in a more comprehensive way free breakfast clubs in local primary schools across the region came from the discussion we have had with local trade unions in developing the budget. The proposals will mean thousands of children will start the day with a healthy meal. You can’t be serious about tackling the appalling attainment gap where kids from deprived backgrounds don’t do as well in school as those from more affluent areas if you still have kids going to school on an empty stomach.
The ‘Links to Work’ proposals will build on our existing hugely successful back to work schemes like the ‘Youth Guarantee’. By providing intense support to those in deprived areas where unemployment is particularly high, the plans aim to get to the root causes of that high unemployment and really tailor support to individuals to meet their employment needs.
But we don’t want to stop there. We are already working on future plans including exploring the option of lunch clubs in schools during the holidays for those entitled to free school meals due to a families’ low income. It’s just not possible for the council to tackle poverty on our own and frankly the Scottish and UK Government need to do more but it is clear that we are playing our part with these measures and the challenge for all groups on the council will be to back them or leave some of our vulnerable residents continuing to live in poverty.”