Last week’s ‘Challenge Poverty Week’ has exposed the scale of deprivation facing the local area, according to South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth.
The local MSP used the week to meet with a range of organisations in Dumfries and Galloway supported by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s and praised the “astonishing” commitment of local groups to support the growing number of people facing poverty in the region.
The visits included helping to distribute an Autumn Collection Clothing Range to local charities. The clothes had been seized by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Trading Standards due to fake branding and are now being put to better use. Each year hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fake goods are seized in the region. Previously the clothes had to be destroyed but are now being given to charities who are able to distribute them to local people, after work was carried out on the clothing to remove the branding.
Colin Smyth also joined a session of Learners Together which is based in the North West Resource Centre in Dumfries. The group brings local people together to learn vital skills and tackle isolation. The group had a cooking competition to learn skills in home cooking with an emphasis on reducing sugar consumption.
The local MSP also visited Summerhill Community Centre to meet the team behind a pilot scheme for the national Fareshare food project, which distributes surplus food to local people.
Colin Smyth is now urging the Scottish Government to do more to tackle deprivation in the area not only in supporting the work of local groups, but to boost the incomes of families in the region by increasing Child Benefit.
Scottish Labour’s plan to increase child benefit by £5 per week- or £260 a year would help more than 25,000 children in Dumfries and Galloway who qualify for child benefit, making up over 15,000 families in the region.
Colin Smyth MSP said, “Challenge Poverty week has really shone a light on the level of deprivation that sadly plagues far too many communities here in Dumfries and Galloway. But it has also highlighted the truly astonishing commitment of groups across the region trying to tackle the problem, supported by the Council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy. There really is heroic work taking place in our communities from foodbanks to classes to support people manage tight budgets and I want to thank all those organisations involved, in particular the army of volunteers given up their time to help others”.
“However, it is vital that more is done by Government. Cuts in spending on local services as well as the UK Government’s welfare reform means the level of poverty, especially child poverty is on the increase here in Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland. But it doesn’t have to be like this. The Scottish Parliament now has many powers over social security. One way in which the Scottish Government could help the efforts locally is by backing the ‘Give Me 5’ campaign which would see Child Benefit increase by £260 a year. A simple increase in Child Benefit could help would help over 15,000 families in Dumfries and Galloway, lifting many of them out of poverty. It’s this type of radical action which is needed from the Scottish Government if we really do want to challenge poverty.”