A raft of measures have been introduced aimed at tackling and alleviating poverty and inequality across Aberdeen, a committee heard today.
Councillors on Aberdeen City Council’s Anti-Poverty and Inequality Committee agreed to the updates on the measures which are to tackle child poverty, fuel poverty, food poverty, and in-work poverty.
The Council has allocated funding to tackle poverty and support communities including £1.6m for the Fairer Aberdeen Fund, which is distributed through participatory budgeting, and £743,468 in community grant funding to community groups.
In addition, the council continues to auto-award Free School Meals (FSM) where it has information relating to benefits. This has seen 825 additional children and young people receive the benefit where their parent/carer had not already applied for it.
Funding has been allocated by the Scottish Government to offset the costs of the school day. The aim is to remove all charges levied on children and young people in primary and secondary schools for participation in core curriculum subjects.
In addition to this allocated funding, the Council has recently agreed funding of £1.1m to mitigate the cost of living crisis through community pantries and food provision, fuel and energy saving support, employability and provision of winter clothing. These funds are being disbursed and are already providing meaningful help to households across the city.
Committee Convener Councillor Christian Allard said: “We continue to support a wide range of community groups and individuals across Aberdeen city and as we approach the very difficult winter months, it is vitally important that we continue to build on these support networks to provide help to those who need it most.
“Aberdeen City Council is fully committed to supporting the needs of our citizens and this update on the progress of the many on-going projects is very welcome and insightful.”
Committee Vice-Convener Councillor Desmond Bouse said: “We welcome this update on the many initiatives and support packages we have being rolled out across the city.
“It is vital we continue to support the citizens of Aberdeen during this very difficult time.”
Work is underway to refresh the Child Poverty Action Plan for 2023-26, and this will be considered at the Anti-Poverty and Inequality Committee in January 2023.
Several initiatives impact on addressing in-work poverty, including work on employability to support people into work, secure additional hours and better paid work and to move from zero hours contracts.
The Financial Inclusion Team supports people to ensure benefit uptake and people, including those in work, are claiming all their entitlements.
In 2020/21, the team supported 2,423 people, securing £3.457m in financial gains, supporting £5.721m in debt management. They carried out 1469 benefit checks, winning 81% of appeals against decisions on the award of benefits. A further LOIP improvement project aims to ‘increase employer sign up to the Real Living Wage by 5% year on year to 2023 to achieve Real Living Wage City Status by 2026’.
The latest project update report indicates that 74 employers headquartered in the city are now real Living Wage accredited – a 68% increase since the project started and a 32% increase since January 2022. More than 1,600 people have received an uplift in wages since the establishment of the real Living Wage movement in the city.
During 2021-22, 567 people took part in employability programmes and 236 people moved into work. 3032 people received money and income maximisation advice, with 1059 of them receiving a total financial gain of £5,941,710 the equivalent of £5,610 per person. 495 parents and families with complex needs were supported, and 355 people accessed mental health counselling provision provided locally. 557 tonnes of free food were distributed, the equivalent of 1.6m meals.
Funding of £743,468 has been awarded to Aberdeen Lads Club, Fersands Community Project and Family Centre, Middlefield Community Project, Printfield Community Project, St Machar Parent Support Project, Station House Media Unit and Workers Educational Association (WEA) to provide Community Learning and Development in priority neighbourhoods.