Renfrewshire unveils £6m poverty blueprint



Mark Macmillan
Mark Macmillan

Renfrewshire Council is to be the first local authority in Scotland to set up a child poverty fighting fund after councillors unanimously approved the allocation of the scheme.

The £6 million package will target a range of areas in a bid to lift families out of hardship including  transport, jobs, training, youth mental health, schools,  housing, family support, regeneration and fuel and food poverty.

Around £280,000 of the pot will help parents meet costs like school trips and activities, and forms part of a proposed schools package that will also pump an extra £1.16m into the area’s literacy resources to cut the attainment gap.

The council will also launch a £410,000 task team of job experts to forge lasting links between pupils and the world of work and training, and will also initiate work that could reform outdated childcare arrangements.

The funding allocation comes months after the ground-breaking Renfrewshire Tackling Poverty Commission findings and recommendations were unanimously backed by councillors.

In March, the local authority provided an injection of £3.2m to take forward immediate priorities emerging from the report.

Councillor Mark Macmillan, Renfrewshire Council leader, said the £6m poverty fund “marks a unique and bold approach to tackling inequality at a local level”.

He said: “The Poverty Commission told us that the cost of the school day has a major impact on families who live below the breadline and I want to put a safety net in place to offer them immediate help with costs like materials, trips and other activities.

“More than half of our £6m poverty fund - £3.3m - will deliver a unique schools package to improve early years and close the attainment gap between high and low income households. Let me be absolutely clear – I want all of Renfrewshire’s children to have the same opportunities, and this allocation will see us step up investment in every stage of school.

“We’ll target support to high school pupils to develop our young workforce and make sure young people who live in poverty are supported and resilient. This will be done through a new, pioneering task force to make sure pupils can have a direct link into work and training, and will be backed up by a £400,000 youth mental health programmes in our high schools.

“We’ll also step up Renfrewshire’s literacy approach in our primary schools and bring it into line with the needs of local children.  £1.16m will be pumped into improving reading, writing and parental involvement and will boost primacy school resources to make sure children from low-income households are given more intensive support and intervention to stop them falling behind.”

Cllr Macmillan added: “The Commission also told us that childcare hasn’t kept pace with changing work patterns or issues like zero-hours contracts and the fact it’s now a barrier to work and training is completely unacceptable. Families with children are the biggest group living in poverty, but are often unable to take on work due to inflexible and expensive childcare – so I welcome our £100,000 childcare investment that will offer immediate support and initiate detailed work to consider local childcare reforms.”

Key investment from the £6m fund:

  • £3.3m allocation into improving early years and closing the attainment gap. This includes roll-out of the council’s successful Families First support programme to Gallowhill, Foxbar and Johnstone, and £1.16m for a new literacy programme to step up efforts to close the attainment gap. The education package also includes £280,000 to address the cost of the school day and £410,000 for a new task force of experts to help pupils build links with the world of work and training.
  • £400,000 to target youth mental health by expanding school counselling services, rolling out peer mentoring across all Renfrewshire secondary schools, and taking forward personal and social development programmes in high schools.
  • £100,000 on transport assistance: This will offer immediate support to residents who need help with travel costs to get to job interviews and training. The money will also allow work to be taken forward to look into longer-term solutions to transport costs being a barrier to accessing work and training.
  • £260,000 to boost the digital and financial abilities of people living in poverty– including a digital skills training in local libraries
  • £490,000 to overhaul and improve advice services – including £170,000 for an energy advice task team.
  • £60,000 to Renfrewshire foodbank. The council will also investigate providing fuel cards for food bank users.
  • £60,000 to extend the successful Healthier Wealthier Children project – which targets financial support towards pregnant women and families with young children – with more focus on vulnerable groups like those facing addiction issues.
  • £125,000 to continue the Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse Recovery (CEDAR) programme to ensure support is targeted towards children and families suffering from the impact of domestic violence.
  • £240,000 to improve health and well-being through access to arts and cultural activity for vulnerable people, working with schools and the wider community.
  • £90,000 for a new sports leadership programme for young people who aren’t in training, work or education, to increase their experience and employment opportunities through working with sports coaches.
  • £250,000 to pilot a new social regeneration project in Johnstone Castle, that takes forward physical changes in the area with a focus on greater community input and building the involvement of residents local organisations.
  • £250,000 to expand the successful Street Stuff youth diversion programme that offers young people a range of activities in their neighbourhoods. The funding will target young people from lower income households, to get involved in a range of evening, weekend and holiday period activities.
  • £135,000 for opportunities for young people from deprived households to volunteer and work with Police Scotland and the community safety team to develop their life skills and work prospects.
  • £60,000 to maximise the councils current and future powers to register, regulate and enforce private landlords, to boost standards in the private rented sector; and £20,000 for a rent affordability study and to work with landlords to develop an affordable rent pledge.
  • £70,000 to develop the potential of the Young Scot Card in Renfrewshire – particularly for young people from low-income households, on areas like discounts and travel.

The council will also deliver a Living Wage campaign with the Chamber of Commerce to drive payment of the living wage, and has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to ask for a meeting discuss a new work incentives pilot in Renfrewshire.

Work will also be taken forward with local organisations to tackle the stigma of poverty and with the NHS to look into how local health care locations and council support services could come together to benefit residents.

And the council will make sure major regeneration programmes such as City Deal and Paisley Heritage Asset Strategy build community benefits and good work practices in at all stages – including the procurement stage.

@RenCouncilNews



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