Tackling poverty is everyone’s business
An initiative to address poverty and tackle the deprivation that is prevalent throughout the Highlands is launched today (Wednesday, 27 September 2017) by the 9 Community Partnerships.
Highland Community Partnerships were formed at the end of 2016 and are a coming together of individuals within local communities, the third sector and public agencies to reduce inequalities and to agree key improvement opportunities that are important to local residents and businesses and thereafter to take the appropriate action.
A key focus of the each of the nine Community Partnerships across Highland is to reduce inequality through a range of measures and activities that will help local people to maximise their incomes, heat their homes and achieve an overall better quality of life.
Chair of the Inverness Community Partnership, Councillor Graham Ross described these Partnerships “…as a new and refreshing opportunity to make a real difference on the ground for local people, businesses and visitors. We are equal partners and collectively have the skills, resources and drive to make a difference.
“Welfare Reform, and in particular, Universal Credit, is working for a small minority but sadly is pushing significantly more individuals and families into poverty. There are also serious concerns that child poverty in Scotland is on the increase and is a problem in our society that urgently needs addressed.”
He added: “The initiative being launched today is absolutely critical to help address the distressing levels of poverty we are increasingly finding in Highland today. As we head into autumn and the winter months, too many families will be faced with having to stretch their income even further to pay for increasing fuel bills and many being forced to choose to heat or eat.
“Putting more money into people’s pockets has the added bonus that more money is spent in local shops and business. These are the reasons why the Community Partnerships are launching this critical financial support initiative today.”
The initiative will involve working with households to maximise their incomes by ensuring that they have an increased awareness of the entitlements that may be available to them and to provide appropriate levels of support to claim.
The sources and types of financial support are vast and include (but are not limited to) Education Maintenance Allowance, Free School Meals, Universal Credit, Council Tax Reduction, Personal Independent Payments, Tax Credits, Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance.
One measure being undertaken through the Community Partnerships is to promote the Warm Home Discount scheme and to support eligible households to take up their entitlement of a £140 discount off their electricity bill.
Councillor Ross said: “I urge low income households to apply for this discount without delay. Domestic electricity account holders can apply online to their electricity provider. Alternatively, expert advice and support is available from the Council’s Welfare Support Team on 0800 090 1004 and from each of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Highland.”
During 2016/17, the Welfare Support Team and the Citizens Advice Bureaux supported in excess of 15,000 customers with welfare-related matters and secured almost £20m of benefits for Highland households.