Co-ordinated approach to the cost of living crisis
First anti-poverty taskforce meeting
Efforts to combat the cost of living crisis were stepped up on Friday when the Perth and Kinross Anti-Poverty Taskforce met for the first time.
Perth and Kinross Council unanimously agreed to create the taskforce last month in response to the deepening economic issues facing the country.
Its first meeting, at the Dewars Centre in Perth, saw representatives from the local authority, partner agencies, charities and the third sector meet to discuss what they felt could be done to reduce the immediate impact of issues such as rising energy bills, high inflation and longer-term causes of poverty.
Opening the inaugural meeting, PKC chief executive Thomas Glen said: “In 2019, it was estimated there were 5155 children living in poverty [in Perth and Kinross]. I don’t think anyone around this table thinks that has declined during Covid or the cost of living crisis.
“We are clear that tackling poverty is something we must place at the heart of what we do.”
Council leader Grant Laing, who is an SNP elected member for the Strathtay ward, said the taskforce has support from all political parties and that helping those in poverty requires a coordinated approach across all sectors.
He went on to explain: “There is a whole-council approach to this as we all recognise the issue.
“We will always have an open door to listen – it is such a big issue there’s no point in trying to solve it in little groups.”
Issues raised at Friday’s meeting included the need to encourage more employers to pay the Living Wage, obstacles to work such as limited transport and rural poverty, as well as fuel and food poverty.
The meeting was chaired by Gareth Ruddock, chief executive of Perthbased social enterprise Giraffe.
He said afterwards: “It was really encouraging to see the range of people and sectors recognised at such an important meeting.
“There is a lot of work ahead but as a group we are confident we can help the people who really need it.”
Following the meeting the Perth City Leadership Forum hosted its Big Lunch.
Chair Mike Robison, who also attended the anti-poverty taskforce, said: “If there is a time to step up and help then this is it. Charities are our social safety net but after 12 years of austerity the cracks are bigger than ever – they need our help.
“The council has created an antipoverty taskforce and has contribute some funds already, but they can’t do it all. We all have a role to play.”
The Big Lunch saw businesses and other organisations come together to discuss the issues facing residents and how they felt these could be addressed.
Following the two events, a spokesperson for the local authority said: “The council has already put mitigation measures in place for those affected by the cost of living crisis, including establishing a
Financial Insecurity Fund, ramping up investment in welfare rights, money and debt advice, increasing funds available for energy efficiency advice and making additional funds available for the provision of community food.
“For the financial year 2022/23, through a mix of funding from the Scottish Government and council decisions, there has been an additional investment of £3.3m to mitigate the impact of poverty and the cost of living, with a further £4.5m on wider mitigation activity – such as expansion of free school meals, meals during school holidays and home energy efficiency measures within councilrented properties.”