A Christmas crisis in Kirkcaldy

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A growing number of children in Kirkcaldy are facing the prospect of Christmas with nothing this year because of the chronic and rising levels of child poverty in the town.

That’s just one of the heartbreaking messages to come from an anti-poverty summit held in the town on Thursday evening.

With child poverty rates in some communities in Kirkcadly east currently standing at nearly 39 per cent, the worst in Scotland outside Glasgow, the stark message is for the public to come together and give a helping hand to those suffering increasing levels of poverty by no fault of their own.

“We can debate who is to blame and what the main causes are all we like but the stark reality is we need to act right now if we are to give those children and families anything to ease their plight this Christmas,” said former Prime Minister and Kirkcaldy MP Gordon Brown, one of the keynote speakers at the event.

“People in this town are already doing a lot but the situation for growing numbers of people is reaching crisis point, we have got to be able to do more.”

And with fears that the deepening crisis could soon see every second child in some parts of Kirkcaldy deemed to be living in poverty, Mr Brown’s plea was echoed by Marilyn Livingstone, chairman of the Cottage Family Centre, one of the frontline organisations supporting those in need in the town.

“Every statistic is a child needing your support,” she told those present.

“We now have around four million children that do not sustain a healthy diet, that go throughout the day without a hot meal, can you imagine that being your child?”

The Cottage Centre alone has seen its Christmas appeal spiral to reflect the worsening and dire situation now being faced by growing numbers of families struggling just to put food on the table.

In 2011 the centre helped 100 children,

By 2015 that figure had increased to 500 and last year 950 children were supported. The fear now is that this Christmas that figure could way exceed 1200.

The centre is to launch its Christmas appeal urging the public to donate if they can, whether it be food, clothes, children’s toys or monetary contributions.

Kirkcaldy Foodbank estimates it will need £15,000 just to see operations continue until the turn of the year.

The money it is now paying for food has doubled in just 12 months.

“A third of all those benefiting from the food parcels we give out are children,” explained Joanna Tait, Kirkcaldy Foodbank treasurer.

“Many of these are families with parents in work who are still struggling to make ends meet.”

However, while the message to the public was to help give those children and families a Christmas this year, a number of positive steps that are now being implemented in Kirkcaldy to help people were also highlighted.

Two such people to have already benefitted from the type of support now being offered by the likes of the Cottage Centre were there to tell of their experiences.

From help with issues such as domestic abuse and debt, to one-to-one support for those suffering mental health and social isolation, both speakers bravely shed light on their suffering and how, when the support is there, they were helped to rebuild their lives.

Speaking afterwards, Kirkcaldy cllr Neil Crooks added: “The level of poverty in this town is disgusting and Christmas brings that suffering to a sharp focus. We must do all we can to deliver this winter.”