Report highlights shocking child poverty rates in Levenmouth and the East Neuk

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Shocking statistics have revealed the extent of child poverty in the East Neuk and Levenmouth area.

Data released this month by the End Child Poverty coalition highlighted that 35 per cent of children living in the Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages ward are living in poverty – the second highest rate in Fife, only behind Glenrothes West and Kinglassie.

This is much higher than the Fife average – 25 per cent – with 20,504 children in the Kingdom living in poverty.

The figures are actually down on those released last year, which were 36.62 per cent.

The figures were lower for the Leven, Kennoway and Largo Ward, and the East Neuk and Landward ward, where 20 per cent of children are living in poverty.

Rhona Cunningham, CEO of Leven-based organisation Fife Gingerbread, which runs numerous projects helping struggling families throughout the Kingdom, said she was “not surprised” by the latest figures.

“The community has been rallying to help,” she said, “but there has been no big infrastructure changes to help the local economy. There’s a lot of good people trying to do a lot of good work.”

Ms Cunningham put some of the blame on a shortage of jobs, as well as the impact welfare reforms on parents.

However, she did offer a grim glimpse in the future, adding: “I predict we will look back at these figures in five years time and think they were not that bad.”

She believes running the basic income pilot in the area could help. Similar schemes are already running in Canada and the Netherlands, providing people with a basic income, regardless of their employment situation.

Fife Council’s co-leaders emphasised that one of the main aims of the Plan 4 Fife is to create a fairer place for everyone to live with opportunities for all.

Cllr David Ross commented: “The extent of child poverty in parts of Fife is scandalous. The council is doing what it can to break the cycle of poverty in the long-term, as well as addressing the current situation, but the central government’s austerity policies are working against us.

“Building new, affordable homes across the Kingdom, investing in education and early years, and continuing to invest in apprenticeships, jobs and training is all about helping future generations maximise their life chances. But, meanwhile, we’re also having to divert budgets into support mechanisms for families that simply can’t make ends meet now.”

Cllr David Alexander added: “Universal credit continues to be a real issue for many Fifers. People both in and out of work are struggling to cope – and it’s just not right.

“We’ve worked with schools to shape up new advice about making the school day cheaper for everyone. And we’re supporting free activities and community food projects throughout school holidays as well as during term time.

“There are many great examples of work happening across the public and voluntary sector, and of local people making a difference in their communities by volunteering.”

As well as working closely with families switching to Universal Credit to provide money advice and other help as required, the council funds a range of projects to support households in poverty.

This includes the People’s Pantry in Leven, which reduce food waste and give access to cheaper groceries and sanitary products as well as bringing people together.

Fife Council also helps fund community food development workers, activity and food projects, training for young people to help them secure work, Fife Gingerbread’s Making It Work for Families scheme, which supports families who are out of work with a young person, and research into cost of bus transport for unemployed people in north east Fife.