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 – 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

Creating a Fairer Fife – in our own words

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 lyndsey.maricic@fife.gov.uk