Commission Member Sandy Macdonald reflects on our latest report, Coronavirus and Poverty in Edinburgh, and suggests that what we have learned so far at the city level should be scaled up and applied elsewhere.
It’s clear that the current pandemic will hit those who are already facing severe hardship even harder. As we look to re-design and re-build our economy, there are some key headlines in our latest report that are worth sharing because some of the principles apply beyond Edinburgh.
- It’s vital we continue to listen and learn from those who have direct insight and lived experience. We’ll identify better solutions and also address the added stress and anxiety that comes from having insufficient control or influence in your life. Even before this pandemic, we heard from people who had eloquently explained the impact on themselves and their families (remember more than 1 in 5 children in the UK was already living in poverty) of not knowing where money was coming from, choices to be made, and a feeling of having no control over your future. That’s been hugely exacerbated this year and we’ll face a long-term challenge to rebuild the wellbeing of our communities.
- Necessity being the mother of invention, the Council, charities, funders and community groups have achieved some remarkable things in the past few months to address housing and homelessness, food poverty and more. It’s vital we lock these gains in and where possible, go further to put the organisations helping in the heart of communities on a sustainable footing for the long term. In many instances as a society we are relying on small, local organisations to provide vital functions in our communities. They’re operating incredibly effectively but we don’t show them we value them, we think they should survive on short-term hand-outs. They deserve better. How can we get better at providing grass-roots charities and community groups with long-term certainty of funding?
- Employers of all sectors have a key role to play. If we come out of this current crisis having learned one lesson it’s surely that all people deserve a decent, secure income and to be treated fairly at work. This applies across all sectors and in all roles. As a society, we just pay the price elsewhere if we don’t do this for each other.
It’s been a privilege to work alongside my fellow Commissioners and to meet people in communities across our city who’ve shared so generously of their insight and experience so we can learn from them and try to do things better. I believe we’re identifying meaningful and actionable recommendations. Our final report will be published later in the year.
Finally, while I’m here, let me also flag our newer ‘sister’ Commission, the Edinburgh Climate Commission. This isn’t a binary opportunity – we can improve our environmental and social prospects for mutual gain. They shared some early thoughts this week, which seem eminently sensible to me.