Poverty & Covid-19: Kirkcaldy councillors examine the key work being done to try to bridge the inequality gap

Fife Council co-leader David Ross.Fife Council co-leader David Ross.
Fife Council co-leader David Ross. | Other 3rd Party
Town councillors said the information is a reflection of the health inequalities that exist in our society, but said a lot of work is being done in areas where people are most at risk.

David Ross, Fife Council’s Labour co-leader, said: “I’m not surprised to hear that Covid19 is affecting people in more deprived communities disproportionately.

“This is a reflection of the health inequalities that exist in our society. Groups of people impacted by poverty are more vulnerable to illness and have less resources to enable them to adopt health lifestyles.”

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He said the local authority is making a massive effort to support vulnerable people through food distribution and financial support through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Councillor Neil Crooks, convener of Kirkcaldy Area Committee. Pic:  Walter Neilson.Councillor Neil Crooks, convener of Kirkcaldy Area Committee. Pic:  Walter Neilson.
Councillor Neil Crooks, convener of Kirkcaldy Area Committee. Pic: Walter Neilson. | walter_ neilson

Councillor Neil Crooks, convener of Kirkcaldy area committee, highlighted the “many brilliant people” who have been tackling the inequalities in the area.

“One positive development from this virus is the wider recognition of vulnerability in communities and significant increases in people taking action through volunteering and being neighbourly,” he said.

“As an area committee we identified four communities which had significant and continuous disadvantage over many years and put resources into them to try to halt and reverse the effects of that deprivation.

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“Templehall, Gallatown, Linktown and the Castle area of Burntisland all have Neighbourhood Development plans and some of the transformative stories involving individuals and groups in these areas are inspiring.”

SNP councillor for Kirkcaldy Central Zoe Hisbent.SNP councillor for Kirkcaldy Central Zoe Hisbent.
SNP councillor for Kirkcaldy Central Zoe Hisbent. | Other 3rd Party

Zoe Hisbent, SNP councillor for Kirkcaldy Central, acknowledged that those living in poverty are facing particular challenges in staying safe during these difficult times.

She said: “We have seen the devastating effect that this crisis has had on local families who don’t have the resilience to withstand sudden changes.

“For anyone living with insecure employment, poor/crowded housing conditions or already experiencing poor health they just don’t have the same opportunities to stay well.

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“It has been great to see the local response, from individuals to the many groups and organisations, the kindness and selflessness that we have seen is outstanding.

Conservative councillor for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy, Kathleen Leslie. Pic credit- Fife Photo AgencyConservative councillor for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy, Kathleen Leslie. Pic credit- Fife Photo Agency
Conservative councillor for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy, Kathleen Leslie. Pic credit- Fife Photo Agency | walter_ neilson

“It has been great to see everyone coming together to help those most in need – providing an invaluable lifeline to individuals and families who don’t have a support network of friends or family to rely upon.”

Cllr Hisbent said measures put in place by the Scottish Government will “go a long way to helping the most vulnerable” but added: “The importance of targeted and co-ordinated support at a local level can’t be overstated.

“It would be a mistake to think of everyone classed as vulnerable into one group.

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“Everyone’s needs are different and require different support – by identifying these we can make sure that our, already stretched, resources go where most needed.

“Most importantly though, we need to all be kind, thoughtful and considerate to others. We we can all help to make a difference – one small act and a little of your time can really mean to someone who is struggling.”

For Cllr Ian Cameron (Lab, Kirkcaldy East), nutritional equality is an absolute human right.

He said: “The consequence of poor nutrition and the impact that this has on the immune system is something people have to live with under normal conditions and now during this pandemic they are dying.

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“Nutritional security should not be a political aspiration. It goes beyond this, but embeded in law so that the governments can be held to account. Individuals will live a better life and the impact on public purse will actually be lessend as the burden on hospitals reduces.

“The welfare system is no longer a safety net and more people are needing that very support. People with poor health are often unable to work as they wish or not at all and they then fall into the deprivation statistics that increase year on year.

“Society needs to change. The role of the public sector needs to be seen in the context of the contribution it makes to the lives of individuals and have the ability to plan for the long term for better outcomes. We need to change the law to protect individuals.

“Lets hope a breath can be taken where lessons can be learned and shortcomings exposed so that there is some sort of positive outcome for the future post CV19.”

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Cllr Kathleen Leslie, (Conservative, Burntisland, Kinghorn & Western Kirkcaldy) said the sample size of 73 people mentioned in the report made it is difficult to draw any specific conclusions.

But she called for further reassurance into what the Scottish Government is doing to ensure all vulnerable members of the community are aware of where they can access assistance during lockdown.

She continued: “One of the problems is that when the call was made by the UK Government for NHS volunteering back in March, the Scottish Government was very slow to react with a similar scheme here.

“Thousands of people signed up to help out in communities but many are still waiting on a response.

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“There are local groups who have been working hard to ensure anyone who may be vulnerable has access to good, healthy food.

“I’d give particular thanks to Shane and Lizzy Halsted for all their work in delivering food parcels in the Linktown and Invertiel area to anyone who needs them.”