Measures to tackle poverty in South Tyneside to go before council chiefs

Some of South Tyneside’s most vulnerable people are set to get a hand up as a series of measures aimed at easing the plight of those living in poverty go before borough leaders.
South Shields Town Hall.South Shields Town Hall.
South Shields Town Hall.

An in-depth investigation into poverty in the borough was launched 18 months ago by South Tyneside Council’s People Select Committee.

Councillors on the body set out to ensure the local authority is doing all it can do to support those living in difficult circumstances while helping people avoid falling into poverty in the first place.

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A number of recommendations aimed at impacting food and fuel poverty have already been accepted. The third of their three reports will go before Cabinet for endorsement next week.

Councillor Anne Hetherington.Councillor Anne Hetherington.
Councillor Anne Hetherington.

One of their recommendations is to ask council leader Tracey Dixon to write to the Treasury outlining the cost of living crisis faced by local residents and call for additional support for those in hardship.

Councillors will also be asked to consider a ‘health literacy’ initiative with schools to enable young people to access health services more effectively. Another recommendation is for schools to promote opportunities to understand and mitigate challenges faced by less affluent children and consider affordable school uniform policies.

Members are also asking South Tyneside’s ruling Labour cabinet to consider proactive promotion of under-used hardship schemes from partners, such as help towards water rates, to people in financial hardship.

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The Commission is also calling for the council to work with community partners to make sure carers know what financial support is available to them as well as supporting the development of a Carer Support Strategy informed by carers with lived experience of poverty.

Councillor Anne Hetherington, Lead Member for Independence and Wellbeing, said: “In line with the Council’s priorities of supporting young people in need and our vulnerable communities, it is essential that we do all we can to prevent people from falling into poverty and helping those who find themselves in dire circumstances.

“The impact of Covid 19 on livelihoods and the current cost of living crisis has only served to make this work more urgent.”

If agreed by the council’s cabinet – which is comprised of senior councillors – directors will be asked to prepare action plans to progress the recommendations.

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Cllr John McCabe, chairman of the People Select Committee, said: “We know the past few years have been extremely challenging for many families and there seems to be no reprieve for them on the horizon.

"The price of basic items such as food and energy are all rising massively. We know food banks are seeing huge rises in the number of referrals and sadly people living in some parts of the Borough can expect to live up to 15 years less than those in more affluent areas.

“This is simply unacceptable. The goal for all of us should be to eliminate poverty in the Borough. By working with our partners, we will continue to do all we can to help those in our communities whose lives are blighted by poverty.”