Our End Poverty in Edinburgh Annual Progress Report has been published on the Council website ahead of Committee today, 24th October 2023. We would also like to share with you an opinion piece written by our End Poverty in Edinburgh group members, in response to the report:
End Poverty Edinburgh (EPE) welcomes this third annual report on the progress of ending poverty in our city. Despite there still being a great deal of work yet to be done, we would like to begin by acknowledging areas of progress.
Firstly, we see early signs of a change in attitudes regarding user-led services and seeking the advice of those with lived experience of poverty. One example of this can be shown through the Edinburgh Partnership meetings; bringing together third and private sectors, public agencies, and local communities to talk about community planning. We have contributed to several of these and similar meetings; there seems to be a real desire to involve people living on a low income in how the council does its business, and we very much welcome this.
We have also been encouraged by new and developing services and schemes, such as the Regenerative Futures Fund, which sought out the views of people with lived experience early on while developing their intervention, as opposed to improving what they do later. We believe that including those with real-life experience is key when attempting to develop new or better services, whether that be improving housing conditions or tackling food poverty. Those with experience have already identified several cracks and gaps, so why not involve them in further adapting whatever the service or intervention may be? We are hopeful this change in attitudes will take root.
Regarding attitudes, End Poverty Edinburgh members have had much more positive experiences with frontline staff; those who speak to us face to face or on the other end of the phone. Treating people with dignity and respect should be the very least expected of staff on the frontline, and we are pleased to not only see efforts being made to ensure this is the case through implementation of training, but also in the delivery of services themselves.
We also welcome steps taken to implement the Living Hours Scheme in Edinburgh. This scheme is committed to providing at least 4 weeks’ notice for every shift, with guaranteed payment if shifts are canceled within this notice period. This would also guarantee a minimum of 16 working hours every week (unless the worker requests otherwise) and a contract that accurately reflects the hours worked. We acknowledge that these are steps in the right direction in order to tackle in-work poverty, however we are looking forward to a wide and broad implementation of Fair Work principles (Effective voice, Respect, Security, Fulfillment and Opportunities) in all workplaces in Edinburgh.
Similarly, we understand the significance of Edinburgh becoming a Living Wage City. Although this is a long-term commitment, we understand that especially in the current cost-of-living crisis, more and more people are pulled into the cycle of poverty, whether they are in work or not; the importance of paying a real living wage is more crucial than ever. Although we understand there is much more work to be done, we believe it is important to highlight and celebrate this area of progress as it is perhaps a key step in the right direction.
Despite there being progress to celebrate, there are many areas we have still to make an impact on. Though we acknowledge a nationwide housing problem, we believe Edinburgh’s housing situation has an identity of its own. With a high volume of short term lets and student accommodation, coupled with a severe lack of social housing, Edindex wait times are long and private rent prices are sky high, driving up poverty rates in the city.There are still far too many families in temporary accommodation. It is just unacceptable that around 5,000 households and 9,000 people are in limbo living in temporary accommodation. It is not just the insufficient number of homes that is the problem, however, but also the quality. Be it damage, mold or out of order elevators; repair times can be long, and communication often lacking. We have much experience of this and have heard many more examples.
We have been encouraged by what we have seen by working with the council in recent months, however, but we still feel the pace needs to step up as more and more people are struggling. Edinburgh desperately needs an increase in quality social housing, accessible social housing, and genuinely affordable housing. We believe the housing situation in Edinburgh is crucial to tackle, and that more support is needed from the Scottish Government. Improving the housing situation in Edinburgh would undoubtedly have one of the biggest impacts on those experiencing poverty, so this must remain a priority.
Another suggestion we believe could have positive impact regards the Council Advice Line. The frontline staff on the advice line are very helpful and knowledgeable, but the limited opening hours of this service are a major barrier people in need. The line is only open on the mornings of Monday to Thursday, which is absolutely no good for those who work during these times. Having the advice line available at more accessible times, such as some afternoons or evenings perhaps, would enable more people to utilise this extremely useful service and potentially make a big difference to their lives.
Despite initial difficulties in signing up, one scheme that seems to have made a big difference to some people’s lives is free bus travel for everyone under 22 years of age. We would like to see this scheme extended to everyone struggling on a low income. Free travel would immediately eliminate barriers stopping many from getting around the city, whether that be related to getting to and from work, seeking help and advice services, or simply enjoying leisure time in places that would not have been possible without. We believe this could greatly improve our lives, financially, emotionally, and mentally, whilst supporting our journey to net zero.
Mental health is such an important factor in relation to combating poverty. Every barrier people on low-income face, be that food insecurity, fuel related worries, rent and housing issues, damages and repairs, bills, debt, unforeseen costs, childcare, travel – every barrier impacts mental health, adding to the immense pressure that people experience. Those caught in the tight grasp of poverty are not living, they are surviving, if lucky, and that is truly unacceptable in our society.
So, as we welcome and celebrate the aforementioned areas of progress towards eradicating poverty from our city, we call to capitalize on this emerging momentum and step up our efforts for the years ahead.