Fife Council has joined forces with Falkirk and West Lothian councils – and the support services in each area – to provide borrowing and support to residents who find it hard to access affordable credit. Read More
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information on the courses, please contact Lyndsey Maricic, Fife Council on 03451 55 55 55 ext 446 138 or Lyndsey.email@example.com or Laura Henderson, NHS Health Promotion on 01592 226506 or firstname.lastname@example.orgSupporting Hard Up Households – Fife Training Programme 2017 (002)Poverty Awareness Training Booking Form 2017
A fairer Fife – it’s our ambition.
But it won’t happen overnight. There are over 40 recommendations in ‘Fairness Matters’ the report from the Fairer Fife Commission, established to help us identify and address challenges arising from poverty and inequality.
Long-term issues need real, long-term solutions. For each of our recommendations, a variety of people across Fife Partnership work directly with residents of Fife, develop new services and projects, and focus on changing working practices at a strategic level. And we reach far beyond Fife with other local authority areas and partnerships, the business community and external funders.
This blog is from the people working towards a fairer Fife, giving their experiences of delivering services, updates and developments from local and national policy, and commitments to tackling poverty and inequality.
We welcome contributions – so if you’re committed to making Fife fairer, and wish to share your stories, please contact email@example.com