Fairer Money for Fifers

AN event to highlight the range of support on offer to hard up households in Fife has been organised by Fife Council.

Bringing together partners across the public and third sectors, the event helped showcase the work already in hand to tackle poverty as well as discussing the challenges to come, including the introduction of Universal Credit later this year.

Co-Leaders of Fife Council Cllrs David Ross and David Alexander welcomed a range of speakers to the event in the Town House, Kirkcaldy including Professor John McKendrick from Glasgow Caledonian University, an expert in poverty research.

Co-Leader Cllr David Alexander explained why events like this are so important: “We are living in a time where there are unacceptable levels of poverty in our society. It’s vital that we work together and share information with our partners to make sure we do the best we can for people who are facing real challenges on a daily basis.”

Last week the council and its partners launched a public consultation on a new Plan for Fife which puts fairness at the heart of the public sector’s agenda for the next 10 years www.fifedirect.org.uk/letstalk

Added Cllr David Ross: “This is an issue that impacts on everyone – from local shops and businesses who have to close because people have little disposable income – to those who can’t find employment and find themselves with debt they can’t handle. Poverty is a blight on our lives and it’s our job to aim for excellence in the services we provide to make a real difference to those who need it most.

“Since the Fairer Fife Commission published its Fairness Matters report a lot of good work is underway but we have to continue to build on that and work closely with partners and communities to do more – and do it better.”

Discussion at the event centred on the work already underway to support hard up households and the knock on effects expected following the introduction of Universal Credit. A guide to help those affected was launched at the event and will be used throughout Fife to signpost claimants to appropriate local services.

Co-locating services along with poverty awareness training for staff is already making a difference to support available as well as guides on avoiding sanctions and for those affected by the benefit cap.

Concluded Cllr Alexander: “Partnership working with agencies including the DWP, CARF and Fife Voluntary Action is key to making sure the support we offer is seamless and meaningful and helps create a fairer Fife.

 

 

Creating a Fairer Fife – Steve Grimmond, Chief Executive Fife Council

We set up the Fairer Fife Commission to help us and our partners identify ways in which we can tackle poverty in Fife. As a consequences of this the Fife Partnership has agreed a range of over 40 actions, some short term and some longer term, that will help us address poverty in the Kingdom.

So for example we are keen to be a fair work region. Fife Council has become a living wage employer and we’ve employed over 155 apprentices to help people get into good fair work.

We’re also keen to support those on the lowest incomes and we’ve recently development a community development finance initiative, which will provide fair lending at lower rates to people who would otherwise need to go to high cost lenders.

We’re keen to get Fife online, so we are providing free WiFi access across a wide range of public facilities throughout the Kingdom.

We recognise that tackling poverty is not a short term endeavour, that we’re in this for the long term but we’re making immediate impact now with some of these early initiatives.

We’re keen to make this pledge and we’d encourage you to make a pledge about the difference you can make to tackling poverty in Fife.

 

Community delegates gather to discuss making Fife Fairer

A participatory conference is being held at the Rothes Hall on Wednesday 29 March for those who lead or contribute to the work of community groups, voluntary organisations, social enterprises and charities in Fife.

The event, “Towards a Fairer Fife”, will seek to hear from and build upon the experience of people working on the ground in communities and organisations across Fife who are addressing inequalities or promoting fairness.

Delegates will hear from a range of speakers including: Steve Grimmond, Chief Executive of Fife Council; Satwat Rehman who was a Fairer Fife Commissioner; Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance and members of Fife’s Third Sector Strategy Group.

However, the main focus of the day will be on participants themselves coming up with proposals and beginning to shape the priorities and agenda for change.

Ninian Stuart, Chair of Fife’s Third Sector Strategy Group sai: “The Fairer Fife Commission set a challenge for the third sector in Fife to become more proactive in setting our own strategic priorities.

“So, we see this conference as a chance to begin doing just that – creating something from the bottom up and reshaping the agenda in a way that will show how the third sector, at its best, can be a force of change, working with others, valuing everyone and giving voice to what is really needed.”

The event will be facilitated by Connecting Scotland, an experienced group of facilitators who facilitated last year’s highly successful Rural Parliament in Arbroath and who use participatory techniques to give all stakeholders a say on issues of shared concern.

For further information and to book your free place please e-mail info@fifevoluntaryaction.org.uk or phone Fife Voluntary Action on 0800 389 6046.

For more information click here.

Fife Voluntary Action is the Third Sector Interface for the Fife Council area.

Supporting, developing and representing community groups, voluntary organisations, social enterprises and volunteering: www.fifevoluntaryaction.org.uk

Registered Office: Fife Voluntary Action is a Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered in Scotland No. SC203613 and Registered Scottish Charity No. SCO28457.

 

The Creative Breaks Fund is run by Fife Voluntary Action, in partnership with Fife Carers Centre, Crossroads and Fife Young Carers is aimed at carers in Fife; courtesy of the Scottish Government’s Time to Live Fund which provides funding (through Shared Care Scotland) to support carers in their highly valued role to enable them to take a short break from their caring responsibilities.

Decision Day for Local Projects – “Forward West Fife”

OVER 50 local people got involved in the Forward West Fife event at Tulliallan Castle last weekend and took decisions on how to spend £60,000 in their communities.

South West Fife communities celebrate a cash boost for local projects.

Now local groups including Kincardine Scouts and Valleyfield Youth Football Club are set to benefit from the cash boost.

Fife Council, in partnership with the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and Forward West Fife Steering Group asked people from Kincardine, Saline, Steelend, Culross, Low Valleyfield, High Valleyfield, Newmills and Torryburn to come up with ideas for projects that could help regenerate the area following the closure of Longannet Power Station.

The participatory budgeting approach involves local people in deciding how public funding is spent in their area, coming up with ideas and then deciding which projects should receive funding by taking part in a voting process. The council and the Scottish Government funded the “Forward West Fife” project to the tune of £60,000.

However funding requests for projects came to over £140,000, and according to Fife Council’s Area Manager for South West Fife, Alastair Mutch, it made for a competitive decision day where every vote mattered.

He added: “Participatory budgeting was a recommendation from the Fairer Fife Commission as a way of creating a Fairer Fife, getting people involved and giving them a direct say in where public money can make a difference to their communities.

“Everyone who came along to the event represented their local projects and had to pitch to each other in a “speed dating” exercise.

“The room was a real hub of activity and each project had three minutes to sell their project and to outline why it should receive funding and to visit each of the other projects in the room to hear about their project and to ask questions. Once the three minutes were up – people had to move on and ‘speed-date’ the next project. There was a range of projects seeking funding from youth groups, sports groups and community councils for anything from play equipment to toilets!”

At the end of the speed-dating exercise, project representatives then re-convened back in their groups to discuss and agree as a group, how to distribute their ten votes across the various projects. Groups could not vote for themselves.”

Following the voting exercise, South West Fife Area Chair, Cllr Bobby Clelland said:  “The decision-making element proved challenging for people as they had heard all about the need for, and benefit of, valuable local community projects yet there was a finite amount of money. Overall however, it was clear that votes were distributed across the various communities and people looked beyond their own geography to support those projects they felt were most valuable.”

Added Cllr Clelland; “I was delighted to meet with the volunteers from our communities and to hear their ambitions for their areas. We are much richer in South West Fife for their contribution and for providing opportunities for people or by in improving their area. I was pleased to support the event by awarding the cheques to the successful projects. I wish them every success. Council officers and our colleagues at Coalfields Regeneration Trust are available to work with unsuccessful projects to support them to identify other possible sources of funding.”

Forward West Fife – Project Winners

The 11 winners from the 19 projects pitched on the day:

Project Organisation
Toddlers Fun Club Torryburn Torryburn Fun Club
High Valleyfield Miners ABC Boxing Gym High Valleyfiled Miners ABC
Camping for all with Kincardine Scout Group 15th Clackmannanshire (Kincardine) Scouts
Saline & Steelend Playpark Project Saline and Steelend Playpark Project
Culross Public Toilet Refurbishment Culross Community Council
Kincardine Youth Project Kincardine Youth Project
The Hub – Community Garden Torryburn & Newmills Development Trust
Kincardine Community Centre Hot Desk Facility Kincardine Community Association
The Stables Re-Wiring Culross Youth Club Management Committee
Valleyfield Youth Football Club Valleyfield Youth Football Club
Balgownie Woods to Devilla Forest Link Path West Fife Woodlands

Fife, West Lothian and Falkirk Councils join forces against poverty

A new partnership between Fife, West Lothian and Falkirk Councils will complement existing money management services, including anti-poverty and social inclusion partners, and wider support services.

Council Leaders Cllr David Ross (Fife), Cllr John McGinty (West Lothian), and Cllr Craig Martin (Falkirk) have signed a partnership agreement which will see a new Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) established for the three areas.

A CDFI offers affordable loans and budgeting advice and helps people access other financial services, such as savings, income maximisation and debt management. CDFIs provide an affordable alternative to high cost short term lenders and mainstream financial service providers whom financially excluded persons cannot access.

The aim is to offer a competitive, socially responsible alternative to non-standard lenders such as payday loans, for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable residents.

The proposed customer groups for the CDFI tend to be people on lower incomes with no record of savings and who have an extremely poor or no credit rating.  This group is often hard-to-reach, vulnerable and not readily willing to seek advice and support.

Following a successful tendering exercise which was led by Fife Council with representatives from West Lothian and Falkirk councils, Five Lamps was appointed to progress the project.

Five Lamps is an experienced CDFI lender with wider social, economic and financial inclusion roles.  The company was established as a social enterprise in 1985 and became a CDFI in 2004.

Key features of the CDFI operation in Fife, West Lothian and Falkirk would be:

Fife Council Leader David Ross

  • 4 shops covering Fife (2), Falkirk, and Bathgate for face-to-face service. The shops will operate from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 12pm on Saturday.  The shops will have capacity for partners to ‘hot desk’
  • It is expected that 15 new staff will be recruited for the service.  In addition each shop will create an apprenticeship opportunity.
  • A pop up presence in each local area to raise awareness of the service
  • Support will be provided to make arrangements with local banks and credit unions to support the establishment of savings accounts
  • Full participation in local anti-poverty and financial inclusion partnership work across the three areas
  • Five Lamps will actively refer anyone who has not been successful in their loan application to other local advice and support services but will not itself deliver those services
  • It is estimated that there is a potential social saving to the local economy of £2.5 million, this reflects the amount of money saved in interest by customers who would have potentially borrowed from a more expensive source.

Leader of Fife Council David Ross commented: “It’s unacceptable that in 2017 there are so many Fifers living in poverty. We are working hard to change that situation and are committed to creating a Fairer Fife for all our residents by 2030.

“One of the key recommendations from the Fairer Fife Commission was to help people on low incomes who might be tempted into debt by taking out high cost pay day loans. We’re prioritising support and early intervention to help break the cycle of poverty and a greater reliance on public services for some people throughout their lives.

“Now by working in partnership with colleagues in Falkirk and West Lothian Councils this CDFI initiative will help provide local money advice as well as a socially responsible lending service – it’s a great move for the people of Fife.”

Creating a Fairer Fife – Ninian Stuart, Chair of Fife’s Third Sector Strategy Group

I’m really excited about the work of the Fairer Fife commission.

The commission challenged the third sector strategy group to look at the third sector in Fife how to do even better and think more strategically about our priorities for addressing poverty and inequality in Fife.

Personally that’s a deep commitment from myself…it also feels like something we really must change to make Fife a better place for everyone.

Together we have come up with a framework which involves:

  • How we drive change
  • How we work together
  • How we value everyone
  • How we give voice to what is really needed

We’re keen to go out and meet with other community groups and people involved in voluntary organisations and together look at the real priorities if over the next three years we’re going to make a major difference. I’m really looking forward to that.

Creating a Fairer Fife – Margaret Hannah, Director of Public Health, NHS Fife

 

We have a Fairer Health in Fife plan to consciously improve the health of people who for one reason or another are given a disadvantage in terms of achieving good health.

I support new ways of working for all those people who have a lead role to play in making a difference on the ground (through) the recommendations from Fairness Matters.

For me, a fairer Fife would mean:

Fewer babies being born with low birth weight

More children entering school fit and confident, ready to learn

Fewer young people with mental health problems, low self esteem, self-harming, drug or alcohol problems, feeling suicidal

Fewer adults with avoidable disease and fewer accidents in the home

Finally better health and wellbeing for everyone – it’s the differences between those who are doing well and those doing not so well that is the biggest determinant for health overall in our population.

Guest Blog – Scottish Welfare Fund Team

The following post is from a colleague in the Scottish Welfare Fund Team, based within New City House.

The Scottish Welfare Fund – Challenge Your Assumptions

Years ago, I worked in Tesco on the checkouts for a couple of weeks over Christmas. As yet another laden trolley approached I asked the lady if she was having the family over for dinner. “No dear” she said. “I’ve been up at the hospice with my husband all week. He’s passed away now. I’m having my family back after the funeral.”

I learned from that experience. It’s easy to make assumptions.

Working on the Scottish Welfare Fund challenges your assumptions. We assume that most people have a home, an income and essentials like a bed to sleep in at night.

For a substantial number of people, sadly this is not the case.

I have been with the Welfare Fund from the start and during that time I’ve realised that the issues that our customers deal with – poverty, health, homelessness, health and family breakdown – make some of their lives close to unbearable. This reflects in the huge incidence of mental health issues that applicants report to us. It is rare to find an application where the applicant does not suffer from anxiety and depression. Often people tell us that they are suicidal.

My assumption that our customers, amongst the most vulnerable people in society, would be dealt with fairly and compassionately by government was also challenged. Benefit issues are arguably the main reason people find themselves in crisis. Work Capability Assessments for employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants, for example, can cause a huge amount of stress to individuals who are already ill. A claimant can lose their income the same day if they fail an assessment. They can appeal but find themselves without income unless they know they can apply for Jobseekers Allowance in the meantime. Often people struggle on for weeks going short of food and fuel before contacting us.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Sanctions are a huge issue with people being denied benefit for weeks or months at a time. Claimants are eligible for hardship payments but many are not aware of how to access them, so may be without heat, light or food before they get in touch. Older people are particularly reluctant to contact us. One gentleman was in a council premises when he collapsed. He was taken to hospital and was found to be suffering from pneumonia as a result of not heating his house for months over the winter because he had been sanctioned.

Further Welfare Reform changes such as the benefit cap and reductions in disability benefits will only make this situation worse.

The Scottish Welfare Fund provides a safety net for vulnerable people on low incomes through the provision of Community Care Grants and Crisis Grants.  The Scottish Welfare Fund is a national scheme, underpinned by law and delivered on behalf of the Scottish Government by all local councils. More information is available here

Supporting Hard-up Households – Free Poverty Awareness Training

The ‘Supporting Hard Up Households’ training programme contains a range of courses and e-learning opportunities that will be useful and relevant to anyone working with individuals and families in Fife who are struggling to make ends meet.

 

Changes to the welfare system – including the benefit cap introduced in November 2016 and the planned move to ‘full service’ Universal Credit from December 2017 – are affecting more and more people across Fife.

 

The courses cover issues such as the practical skills that will help you to recognise when someone has money worries, and what you can do to help; to more in-depth skills and knowledge on specific issues related to benefits and particular groups of the population.

 

All the courses are open to all public and voluntary sector workers in Fife and are FREE to attend.

 

This training programme is funded by Fife Partnership, through its recommendations in Fairness Matters, the report from the Fairer Fife Commission to address poverty and inequality in Fife. Training sessions are delivered by the Poverty Alliance, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, and One Parent Families Scotland.

 

To book a place please complete the booking form and return to fife-uhb.HITraining@nhs.net or contact Kelly Higgins on 01592 226561 (internal 46561) or at Kelly.Higgins@nhs.net

 

For more information on the courses, please contact Lyndsey Maricic, Fife Council on 03451 55 55 55 ext 446 138 or Lyndsey.maricic@fife.gov.uk or Laura Henderson, NHS Health Promotion on 01592 226506 or laurahenderson3@nhs.netSupporting Hard Up Households – Fife Training Programme 2017 (002)Poverty Awareness Training Booking Form 2017