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Region sees rise in child poverty

By Andrew Goss
Region sees rise in child poverty

CHILD poverty across the region rose by 1.7 per cent over the last year, a new council report has revealed.

That’s despite a determined pledge by Dumfries and Galloway Council, NHS Dumfries and Galloway, and their partners to improve the lives of children and families living in or at risk of poverty, the report says.

The Local Child Action Report for 2020-21 for the county is set to be presented to the council for agreement next week. It says the year has been dominated by the immediate need to respond to the covid pandemic.

And it shows that despite vigorous efforts the most recent statistics indicate that the rates of child poverty in Dumfries and Galloway continue to increase, with 26.7 per cent of children living in poverty in 2019/20, a rise on the previous year.

Key drivers of child poverty, the council says, continue to be the cost of living and low income from employment, or from benefits.

But the report also highlights significant achievements in ensuring that families hit the hardest have received help and support, and this is reflected in a range of new and successful initiatives.

They include the early expansion of Early Learning and Childcare to 1140 hours a year.

The council also increased the eligibility for free school meals, ensuring that 450 more families could be supported. A free home delivery service for sanitary products was also introduced in order to address period poverty, and a Counselling in Schools programme was rolled-out.

The council’s realistic expectation is that Dumfries and Galloway will be dealing with the fallout from covid for many years, with a recent assessment of economic vulnerability indicating the region is particularly vulnerable due to impacts on the hospitality and tourism sector, on which it heavily relies.

Therefore a new sub-group of the Poverty and Inequalities Partnership has recently been established to further develop the partnership approach to child poverty in 2022 and beyond. It is planned that this group will provide opportunity for extensive collaboration with a wider range of local partners and will help to increase the voice of those with lived experience of poverty, in order to ensure actions are influenced by those most impacted by the effects of poverty.

Councillor Rob Davidson said: “As an increasing number of local children are living in poverty, we remain committed to working with our partners to address this. We are excited about our new approach to this work and the actions we plan to take over the next year.”

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