'Poverty truth' panel among latest plans to improve thousands of lives in South Tyneside

A ‘poverty truth’ panel to show political and business leaders the true plight of South Tyneside’s poorest households is among new steps under a bold vision to eliminate poverty in the borough.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 1:09 pm
Thousands of people live in poverty in South Tyneside, with food banks reporting 'working poor' and older people are increasingly feeling the impact.

The project – which would see people with first-hand experience of poverty giving their experiences to leaders, and helping form solutions – is among new initiatives aiming to improve lives.

They are set out in a report to be discussed by South Tyneside Council’s cabinet of senior councillors next week.

Members will be asked to endorse the latest recommendations from the People Select Committee’s Poverty Commission.

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The panel has been putting the issue under the microscope to make sure the local authority is doing all it can to support those in difficult circumstances and to help people to escape poverty.

“The goal for us all should be to eliminate poverty in the borough,” said Councillor John McCabe, who chairs the committee.

Cllr McCabe said the committee had investigated the “extent of poverty in the borough” for many months, and looked at how the local authority could work to improve the lives of South Tyneside’s most vulnerable people.

“We have already given cabinet a number of recommendations which have been accepted and adopted to try and alleviate poverty in the borough,” he said.

“Working with a wide spectrum of partners we will in the coming months work to achieve a vastly diminished number of our residents living in poverty.”

The report prepared for cabinet states poverty is impacted by various factors – from the ongoing effect of Universal Credit and welfare reform to access to health and social care, and the impact of Covid-19.

Fuel poverty is also a key issue in South Tyneside which affects more than 6,000 households.

To tackle fuel poverty, the council is looking to make improvements to its own housing stock to make homes more efficient, while ensuring that those in need receive benefit checks to maximise their income.

The report also highlights how food banks have played an increasingly important role in helping those hardest hit by the pandemic.

From meetings with food banks, councillors learned how poverty affects not only the unemployed but increasingly the ‘working poor’ and older residents.

According to the cabinet report, “the representatives of the foodbanks who gave evidence were very clear that their services should be regarded as a crisis intervention and not ‘the norm.'”

The People Select Committee has been working at pace and presented several reccomendations to cabinet in 2020 as part of the Poverty Commission.

The next round of reccomendations arising from work since December 2020 will be presented to cabinet on Wednesday, May 19.

These include:

:: Setting up a ‘Poverty Truth Commission’ bringing together community, civic and business representatives with people with experience of living in poverty to better understand the effects of poverty first-hand, involving those who experience poverty to have a “real influence in formulating solutions"

:: Working with the Feeding Britain Network to develop a single access point for food bank provision.

:: Encouraging housing developers to build carbon neutral homes, with “incentives developed to support this”, making ‘explicit reference’ to this end in the Local Plan

:: Working with voluntary and community sector organisation Inspire South Tyneside to develop a training and resource pack for community and voluntary sector organisations aimed at raising awareness of the features of poverty.

:: Working with South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure GP surgeries are aware of services available (across sectors) to patients who are struggling financially.

Councillor Anne Hetherington, lead member for independence and wellbeing, said: “The root causes of poverty are many and varied but, especially in light of the pandemic, it is essential that we take a strategic view and assure ourselves that we are doing everything we possibly can to help people affected by poverty.”

For more information on next week’s cabinet meeting, visit: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/60650/Upcoming-committee-meetings

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