The good reception of the End Poverty Edinburgh deputation at Committee yesterday warrants the following Challenge Poverty Week Blog in their own words.

End Poverty Edinburgh is an independent group of citizens established in 2020 to raise awareness of poverty in Edinburgh and influence decision-making on measures to tackle poverty in the city.[i]

The group is formed of citizens with direct experience of poverty in the city and their allies and was created by the Edinburgh Poverty Commission as part of a long-term movement to end poverty in Edinburgh.  Learning from good practice examples elsewhere in Scotland, the group supports citizens with experience of poverty to amplify their voices, identify shared priorities, and engage with policy makers to institute positive change.

Secretariat support for the group is provided by The Poverty Alliance who also act a key link between the group and the Council’s Poverty and Prevention Team.

To date during 2021 the group have met with elected members of the Council, participated in workshops on issues such as fair work and the living wage, and have supported the development of this report by providing their reflection on priorities for the city and progress made to date.  These responses have been prepared independently by the group and are not necessarily the views of the Council or other partners.

Response from End Poverty Edinburgh

End Poverty Edinburgh very much welcomes the publication of this Annual Report on progress towards the delivery of ending poverty in our City

We look forward to examining, and offering input to, the strategy being developed to meet the commitment to “20-minute neighbourhoods”. This will be key to ensuring that people are able to access the right support in the places they live and work.

EPE has highlighted how important it is that the experience of having to seek help should be made a less stressful and more dignified process.  The announcement of increased capacity at Council Advice Shops is very much a step in the right direction. The additional investment to reform the way people-facing services operate should have a major and very positive impact in helping those already experiencing poverty and in the prevention of further poverty and homelessness. Key to achieving these outcomes will be ensuring the necessary support services are delivered in the best ways and in locations accessible to all.

To ensure that the momentum of these very positive steps continues, we would like to remind Council officials and partner organisations, that the members of End Poverty Edinburgh, with their knowledge and lived experiences, are a key resource which they should be fully utilising to add value to this ongoing and critical delivery plan.

EPE members have experienced and witnessed the impact that the stigma of “poverty” has on both adults and children.  We fully support the strategy in schools to educate and hopefully eventually eradicate this. Training on poverty awareness for all school teachers is a positive step in the right direction. It is hoped that if the teachers can educate the pupils on the subject of poverty, then this will eliminate the negative stigma that can hinder the future/prospects of the next generation.

The new blended “employability service”, if designed appropriately, could have a major impact on the aspirations and prospects of many school leavers and others.  It is crucial that, regardless of their background and academic abilities, everyone is encouraged to achieve their full potential (whilst at school and after leaving) so that they are in the best possible position to go onto further education or into employment. 

Looking forward into the next year, the health and wellbeing of the citizens in Edinburgh needs to be a top priority for all partners. Every point raised within this report has a direct influence on their citizen’s health and wellbeing. For example, if you don’t have access to safe and affordable housing, this is going to wreak havoc on a person’s health and wellbeing due to stress and sleeping in unsuitable conditions.

EPE would also like to see real progress in long-term plans to stop the city’s food insecurity problems. We have already communicated why we feel that this is a massive issue to the elected officials, and it would be great to work in partnership with the EC on this issue.

EPE feel that concrete plans are needed to:

  • Ensure that food parcels for vulnerable people and food banks offer access to food that is suitable for everyone, meeting the needs of people with food intolerances (gluten, soya, dairy etc) and religious, spiritual, lifestyle choices (vegan/vegetarian, Halal etc).
  • Work with education establishments to ensure that ALL pupils and FE/HE students have access to sanitary products that come from a sustainable source which funding will NOT be cut, and that different types of sanitary products are included in food banks (cups, pads and tampons). Different people have different sanitary needs and this needs to be addressed to not leave people short.
  • Ensure that mental health training for all education professionals so children and young people have access to crisis support whether that is at school, college or university. Resilience lessons aren’t enough to deal with the young person’s mental health pandemic.

EPE would like to highlight that while we acknowledge the outstanding and essential work that foodbanks and other emergency food providers do in serving the immediate needs of those experiencing food insecurity, we should not be relying on these services to feed people. This is a sign of a society that is not doing enough to tackle poverty. Furthermore, these services stigmatise those accessing them – EPE is aiming to eliminate this kind of charity approach to address food poverty.

Regarding efforts around affordable and decent homes, we make three notable points:

  • Edinburgh is overflowing with private houses, a lot of which are rented out at unaffordable amounts. Many refuse to accept those on benefits.
  • Although there is more affordable housing being built, in Edinburgh, these are flats, unsuitable for families and disabled people. We need affordable houses too – not just flats.
  • This supposedly “affordable” housing is still out of the price range for those who need them, this issue needs to be addressed if we are to end poverty in Edinburgh.

We note that City of Edinburgh Council has increased the number of contracts to new suppliers who pay the Living Wage in the last year, bringing up the numbers to 79%. At first sight this development could be interpreted as an improvement in the Council’s efforts to promote Living Wage employment in the city. However, the group were disappointed since we had expected all public sector bodies to outsource contracts only to Living Wage employers.

We understand that there are legal regulations when it comes to outsourcing contracts which prevent this happening.  End Poverty Edinburgh would like Council Officials to look into this issue in order to establish whether these legal limitations still apply, and get back to us regarding their findings.

On the other hand, we would like Council Officials to look into ways to ensure that contracts for suppliers are allocated to employers that follow wider Fair Work principles. EPE thinks that paying the Living Wage on its own, does not guarantee the financial stability needed in order to avoid poverty. According to The Poverty Commission Report 2020, 59% of families in poverty are working families. EPE finds this figure unacceptable.

Workers deserve (amongst other measures) – Guaranteed working hours contracts, Full time contracts (when suitable for the worker), Contractual sick pay, Contractual maternity pay, Good provision of H&S, Training opportunities, and an effective voice in the workplace.

On that note, we would like to once again emphasize that we, End Poverty Edinburgh, with our knowledge and lived experience, are a key resource which should be fully utilized – we can be an effective voice in adding value to this ongoing and critical delivery plan towards ending poverty in our City.