Renfrewshire Council starts a new journey to break the child poverty cycle today – with a ‘first step’ cash injection of £3.2m to take forward immediate priorities emerging from the Tackling Poverty Commission report.
The ring-fenced sum was approved at today’s council meeting and will be targeted towards prevention measures to stop people falling into poverty, and emergency responses to lift families out of hardship.
The council will also call on the Scottish Government to allocate Renfrewshire additional education funding to support children from poorer households.
The council’s immediate response will focus on closing the attainment gap between pupils from high and low income households; reducing the cost of the school day; more support for Renfrewshire families and children; supporting residents facing food and fuel poverty; and steps to prevent families falling into hardship as a result of benefit sanctions.
Measures approved by the council include:
A new programme to: Step up literacy and numeracy interventions for specific groups (including looked after children); and support poorer families meet challenges around the cost of the school day: £2m (with a call to the Scottish Government to match fund this from its Attainment Scotland Fund.)
Expand Renfrewshire’s successful Families First approach to offer a range of support to the families of children aged 0 – 8: £1m
Establish a fuel poverty task team to offer one-to-one help to local people –creating job and training opportunities within the team: £170,000
Funding Renfrewshire Foodbank’s Manager post for two years and offering financial support towards a new distribution centre being set up: £60,000
Write to the UK Government to formally ask for a new, joint approach to job seeker work incentives with a stronger focus on early intervention to cut the risk of vulnerable people being sanctioned.
A call for additional powers to ensure private tenants are charged a fair price. And a review of the council’s regulation and enforcement arrangements of private landlords to ensure a high standard of privately rented housing throughout Renfrewshire.
Renfrewshire Council Leader, Councillor Mark Macmillan, said: “The innovative Renfrewshire Tackling Poverty Commission issued a call to action to Renfrewshire and beyond and the council accepts this and fully endorses the independent body’s invaluable work, findings and recommendations.
“Poverty has blighted our area for decades and we will not stand by and see another generation left behind because they are caught in the poverty cycle. We will do all we can, but the Commission was clear that this is not a fight the council can win alone. There must be a wider partnership movement against deprivation in Renfrewshire to take forward change and action.
“Today marks the start of the journey that lies ahead and which requires a long-term programme of response. We take the first step with an immediate £3.2m cash injection for key priority responses that will offer immediate help to some of our most vulnerable residents and which step up the fight to improve our children’s life chances.
“We will also make it our priority to do all we can to press the UK Government to re-think its current benefit sanctions regime and work with us to trial a new work incentive approach here in Renfrewshire.
“The Commission said more should be done to make sure national education resources are aligned with deprivation levels and I call on the Scottish Government to match fund the £2m we are targeting towards improving attainment and outcomes for poorer children.
“I have written to Angela Constance, Minister for Children and Young People, urging that the Scottish Government’s £100m Attainment Scotland Fund help children in Renfrewshire – home to the most deprived datazone in the country, and despite this, five other authorities have received funding, while Renfrewshire has received nothing.”
This £3.2m investment forms part of an overall sum of £6m that was set aside by the council for an immediate tackling poverty response.
Members from all political parties passed the council report about the response to the poverty commission findings.