At each themed meeting the Commission heard evidence from practitioners (from the Council and partners including where appropriate those from business and third sector) which included the current context in Fife as well as an overview of existing interventions with the aim of alleviating poverty. Commissioners wanted to hear what has worked well but also what hasn’t worked well, what have been the challenges, what gaps remain and what ideas are there for addressing these gaps.
Commissioners were especially keen to hear from local people who have experienced poverty and met with individuals to collect personal testimonies. Eight meetings to collect personal testimonies hosted by third sector agencies were organised.
In addition to the themed meetings there were also be a number of meetings with key stakeholders (for example Department for Work and Pensions, Skills Development Scotland and Fife Third Sector Strategy Group) to allow Commissioners to engage with a wide range of practitioners working with those experiencing poverty.
Paid and unpaid work
Poverty has many causes and its consequences impact society at all levels. Fife Council recognise that work, whether paid or unpaid is one of the key tools to combatting poverty in Fife. Being engaged in work has many additional benefits to the health (both mental and physical) and wellness of individuals and the communities that they live in. Fife Council are investing in high quality, employer focused, employability programmes to ensure that the people of Fife have the chance to build confidence, gain focus and earn an income that allows them to provide for themselves and contribute effectively to the communities they live in.
To deliver the level of high quality services necessary for the people of Fife; it is essential that the Council do not work alone but instead forge strong partnerships that both set the economic strategy and deliver programmes that can achieve it.
Place has an important role in local quality of life. Fife Council and its community planning partners have a key role to play in place-shaping, understanding the kind of place Fife is, and what it would like to be.
Under the theme of ‘Place’, an overview will be given of activity in Fife in the areas of housing, quality of local area and environment, access and opportunities, and safety and security.
Virtually all services are delivered in a ‘place’ of some kind, such as, people’s homes, community venues, schools, etc. Therefore there is a huge amount of place based activity being undertaken and some of it is reflected in this document.
A strong focus for place-shaping in the Council is through the various planning instruments such as, Strategic and Development Planning. The proposed Fifeplan document comprehensively documents the context for this and will be made available to commissioners. This report will therefore focus on other aspects of Council and partnership work.
It is clear that while there is significant activity around ‘place’ there may be scope to make this more integrated and in particular to focus on reducing poverty and inequality. To this end, the Council is currently pursuing a decentralisation agenda, to give much greater emphasis to Local Community Planning. This may go some way to address the integration of activity in the local area, but is currently in the early stages of deployment and will require time to mature.
The Fairer Fife Commission is interested in the relationship between poverty and being well –how reducing poverty and inequality can have a positive impact on personal / family well-being, but also how improving well-being can help people to be more resilient to their circumstances or build their capacity to move out of poverty.
Life courses and transitions
Social context has a profound impact on the lives of Scotland’s people. There is a clear and significant relationship between life outcomes (health, educational attainment, employment occupation, care needs, etc) and social context. Fife Council and its community planning partners have a key role to play in:
- Improving life chances. Providing better opportunities and clearer pathways for people to progress in their own life journey.
- Improving life choices. Ensuring that aspirations and ambitions are fully informed, and that behaviours and actions are responsible and respectful of he wider community.
Improving our capacity for early intervention and prevention is key to achieving these goals, as is the development of effective strategies to support people during key transitions:
- Between different stages of life (e.g. in preparing for school, or for post-school destinations).
- Between different levels of need (e.g. through changing household / financial circumstances, as health and care needs change).
- Through changes in the wider social / political context (e.g. the introduction of Welfare Reform).
Fife Council aims to support all of Fife’s citizens through these transitions and to help them achieve positive life outcomes.