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Renfrewshire takes bold step forward in fight against poverty.

Renfrewshire Council has taken a bold step forward in the fight against deprivation by setting up a commission to tackle child poverty in the area.

The commission will bring together local and national expertise with Renfrewshire Council’s Depute Leader, Councillor Mike Holmes, as chair. The move was given the seal of approval today at the council’s Leadership Board.

Councillor Holmes said: “Unfortunately, Renfrewshire has deep rooted deprivation issues that need to be addressed, and because of welfare cuts and the rising cost of living, many families are caught in the poverty trap.

“We’ve been making steady progress with programmes to boost jobs and target support to families. But through the Commission we want to build on this and look at new ways of working and a fresh approach while building a framework of action that can make a real difference to the poor and vulnerable.

“The Commission will move forward with focus and determination because we simply have to break the poverty cycle. Improving the lives of Renfrewshire’s children isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s one of the best investments we can make.

Sir Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, has agreed to sit on the Commission. He said: “The relationship between health and inequality is one of the biggest issues facing Scotland just now, and the Scottish Government is committed to reducing the health gap between the richest and poorest people in Scotland.

“Poverty is often the root cause of many of the health and social problems we see in our society and it is only by working together that we can drive change in communities. I’m looking forward to working as part of the Commission to draw up a plan for action in Renfrewshire and work with all agencies to help improve the lives and the outcomes for children in the area.”

Roslyn McVeigh, Renfrewshire Foodbank Manager will also join the Commission. She said: “Renfrewshire Foodbank has been operating since October 2012, and in that time we’ve fed 4,000 people across Renfrewshire.

“Since April 2013 there has been a five-fold increase in numbers using the service. Meeting face-to-face with and hearing the stories of those who are experiencing levels of poverty so extreme that they can’t afford to feed themselves is humbling.

“Until you rub shoulders with someone in this situation, you have no idea how debilitating to a person poverty can be. It impacts all areas of their lives, including health, life chances and confidence.

“I’m pleased the Commission is being established in an attempt to tackle this issue. It is my desire that the Tackling Poverty Commission can go some way to identify and weed out the root cause of poverty and give the people of our community back hope, a sense of self worth and a promising future.”

Commission members are:
*       Councillor Mike Holmes, Depute Leader of Renfrewshire Council
*       Sir Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland
*       Dr Jim McCormick, Scotland Adviser to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
*       Dr Sue Ellis, Reader in Education at Strathclyde University
*       Fraser Falconer, National Head of BBC Children in Need
*       Hannah McCulloch, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
*       John Carnochan, former Detective Chief Superintendent of Strathclyde Police and Head of the Violence Reduction Unit
*       Audrey Cumberford, Principal and Chief Executive of West College Scotland
*       Alan McNiven, Chief Executive of Engage Renfrewshire
*       Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary, STUC
*       Linda de Caestecker, Director of Public Health, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
*       Roslyn McVeigh, Renfrewshire Foodbank Manager
*       Robert Johnston, Head Teacher of St Benedict’s High School

Through research and debate the Commission will examine local circumstances, take evidence from local and national experts and develop a plan of action to tackle these issues over the next three years.

Poverty in Renfrewshire: Background information and data:
*       19% of Renfrewshire’s workforce are paid less than £7 per hour.
*       25,055 (15%) of residents are experiencing income deprivation.
*       1 in 5 children are living in poverty
*       70% of working-age people are in employment. 8.5% are unemployed.
*       17,430 (15.6%) of people receive out of work benefits.
*       13,300 residents claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
*       5,520 people are in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance *       4,550 people of working age are claiming incapacity benefits.
*       10% of local people have no qualifications
*       16.5% of Renfrewshire households are fuel poor.