Scourge of poverty is destroying lives for Kirkcaldy people

Hundreds of children in Kirkcaldy are living in poverty. Pic by Ian Georgeson
Hundreds of children in Kirkcaldy are living in poverty. Pic by Ian Georgeson

Shocking new statistics have revealed that child poverty in parts of Kirkcaldy has risen to 40 per cent – and are still on the increase.

The frightening figures, which mask hundreds of cases of human misery and tragedy, have prompted a local centre offering a lifeline to many vulnerable families in the town to double a £50,000 appeal target to help those most at risk.

And the Cottage Family Centre in Templehall, where the figures show that around a third of youngsters are living in deprivation, is warning that action needs to be taken now to help prevent more lives being destroyed by poverty.

The latest stats showing the percentage of children in poverty in Scotland between October-December 2015 were revealed last week in a National Statistics publication entitled Equality, Poverty and Social Security, which highlighted that one in every five children in Scotland was living in deprivation.

And they showed that, after housing costs were taken into consideration, 27.7 per cent of children in the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency area were living in poverty.

In the Kirkcaldy Central area the figure was 30.34 per cent, in Lochgelly and Cardenden it was 30.10 per cent while in Kirkcaldy East area which includes Smeaton and the Gallatown, it rose to 40.31 per cent.

Behind the data lies devastated lives blighted by mental health issues, exhausted parents worried about where the next meal is coming from and families stretched beyond breaking point.

The Cottage Centre has already expanded from its base in Templehall to offer support in Linktown and Gallatown - but it too needs help.

And the latest rise of around a fifth in the poverty figures has prompted former Kirkcaldy MP Gordon Brown to call on the Cottage Centre’s supporters to help reach a new £100,000 target to tackle poverty in its 30th anniversary year.

Mr Brown, a champion of “the best centre of its kind in the country” as he described the Cottage in a speech last Friday, said that the horrendous statistics reflected an eight-fold increase that the centre had experienced during its festive appeal last year.

Then, it helped over 800 families with food, clothing and presents, compared to just 100 six years ago when the appeal started out.

The figures have been bourne out by the numbers of people requesting the help of Kirkcaldy’s Foodbank which has also seen a rise in demand for its help.

In the year from December 2014-November 2015 it gave out a total of 2928 food parcels. In the following 12 months that number had risen to 4554.

Between September last year and January this year it issued an average of 133 food parcels to households with children, from an average of 477 parcels overall – equating to 28 per cent of all parcels.

Mr Brown is set to highlight the appeal at a civic reception for the Cottage’s 30th anniversary on April 6 in the Town House in Kirkcaldy.

“We are raising the appeal target because the Cottage is at the sharp end of this crisis without the resources to cope.

“It now needs to attract more therapeutic counsellors to deal with an upsurge in mental health problems among both parents and teenagers who cannot get NHS appointments, even when in urgent need.

‘‘I am told locally that teenagers with mental health issues can wait up to nine months for an appointment, and it often takes 18 months for adults to be seen.

“It needs to fund a teenage club for adolescents who doubt their self-worth, dads’ clubs to help first-time fathers cope and a grandmothers’ club where they can use their experience to help struggling mothers,” he added.

Pauline Buchan, service manager at the Cottage, added: “Here we are trying to help people to build their aspirations, but it is very difficult when they are faced daily with not having enough money to buy food, heat their homes or buy shoes for their children.

“We are seeing an increasing number of people suffering mental health problems brought on by poverty which has a massive effect on people’s ability to function.

“Not enough is being done to tackle the problem by the government and NHS and the voluntary sector like ourselves are being left to pick up the pieces.

“Doubling our 30th anniversary target will make a massive difference. It means we will be able to expand our mental health support for older children and adults by offering counselling. By getting this help it will give them more chance to be able to function properly and fight their way out of poverty.

“Our grannies’ project will help people who don’t have extended family support to get that help form experienced people who have been there before.”

Roger Mullin, Kirkcaldy MP said: “Levels of child poverty in my constituency are extremely concerning, and the fact that Tory welfare reforms are set to push yet more children into poverty is absolutely appalling. The IFS predicts that absolute child poverty in the UK will rise to 30 per cent by 2021-22 which is “entirely explained by the direct impact of tax and benefit reforms.

“These truly disgraceful findings provide more evidence of the damage caused by the UK Government’s ideological austerity agenda, which is punishing the most disadvantaged people in my constituency and across the country.

“In Scotland, the SNP government has introduced a new Child Poverty Bill which will introduce ambitious targets to reduce child poverty.

‘‘But that job becomes more difficult in the face of continued Tory austerity. We are already spending £100 million a year mitigating welfare cuts which we’d much prefer to spend on tackling the deep-rooted causes of poverty.

“The UK Government must stop condemning low income families to bear the brunt of austerity. Our children deserve better.”