Improving household income - Challenge Poverty Week
Having been brought up in poverty, with the challenges of not having enough money to live on, it is frustrating that so many families and individuals continue to struggle. The route out of poverty is possible but often requires a myriad of support and clear pathways to follow. Too often the message of help can get lost. Too often the safety nets others take for granted do not appear when someone falls.
There is also, sometimes, the ‘shame’ of asking for help. I use that term advisedly as it is societies shame never the individuals. Thankfully we have changed some of the stigma and reduced those ways you can be identified as needing support. Children in poverty routinely passed on free school meals, not wanting to be different to their paying peers, so the move to provide ALL younger children with a free school meal is welcomed. While not perfect, many improvements have been made. The City of Edinburgh Council’s commitment to eradicate poverty by 2030 is a bold one and is already galvanising action and allows all of us to contribute and make a difference.
One of the key ways to improve household income is through work, especially work that is fair. Fair means paying the real living wage, secure and consistent contractual hours, offering appropriate pension contributions and flexible working options, and appropriate paid annual leave. Fair Work allows everyone to flourish. Workers are more productive and loyal, businesses reduce staff turnover and attrition, families benefit from improved health and wellbeing, school attainment goes up in poorer families. Everything in poverty is inter-linked and the more we tackle it the better it is for all.
Through the Edinburgh Local Employability Partnership, we have one of the most robust employability offers in Scotland, with services positioned where needed. The refreshed Edinburgh Guarantee is at the forefront of this, making sure all citizens have an employability offer underpinned with quality and support.
Time and again we also still hear of rising housing costs as a barrier. It is therefore gratifying that building affordable homes is now one of the top priorities in the city and another sign we are moving forward.
There are other critical ways to improve household income. Welfare advice can be vital as people try to navigate the help available or eligibility. Embedding this within services has been a real strength in Edinburgh and a review of advice support is now taking place to check if what we are doing can be further improved.
Finally, we have the Maximise! service. A fantastic partnership approach of intensive family support offering housing, money and benefits advice and employability support. For those in need, it is the perfect starting point. A trusted safe place. We have a new Maximise! service in development to increase diversity and inclusion and widen the community offer too.
Improving household income helps to tackle poverty and inequality and brings about much needed positive change. It is something we should all aim to do wherever and whenever we can.
Rona Hunter, Capital City Partnership CEO