Challenge Poverty Week

I was delighted to visit the Ayrshire Women’s Hub to help raise awareness of Challenge Poverty Week.

Challenge Poverty Week aims to highlight the growing problem of poverty in Scotland and showcase the solutions we can all get behind to help solve it.

Despite the UK being one of the world’s wealthiest nations, we live in a society where one in five people live in poverty with the relentless struggle to pay their rent, energy bills or put food on the table.

The Ayrshire’s Women’s Hub is a hugely valuable local service which has five Caseworkers dealing with hundreds of cases on issues ranging from complex benefit problems to social care for individuals and families across the whole of Ayrshire.

The Hub also provides a drop off point for the South Ayrshire School Clothing Bank.

It was great to meet Angie and her team and hear more about the fantastic but also immensely challenging work they do to support individuals and families in need.

The Hub itself is a lovely, welcoming space with a warm stove and comfy chairs to help make those who use it feel at home – even if all they have come for is a cup of coffee and some company.

Unfortunately, it is currently quiet, due to Covid, but the team have continued to provide benefit advice or social support through telephone and video consultations.

Sadly, with 10 years of austerity from successive UK Tory Governments, we are seeing a continued rise in the number of people falling into poverty. Prior to 2010, the numbers living in poverty had been falling, but since the Welfare Act of 2012 there has been a steady increase among children, pensioners and the disabled.

Despite many initiatives from the Scottish Government to try to mitigate austerity – including paying the bedroom tax, providing Sure Start grants and a baby box for all newborns – the powers required to really tackle poverty remain at Westminster.

As we plan our recovery from the Covd-19 pandemic, it is essential that we take the opportunity to build forward, rather than going back to ‘business as usual’. We need to build an economy that is more socially just – focussed on fairness and sustainability rather than on greed and consumption.