Expert group sets out vision to tackle poverty in Fife

Chairman Martyn Evans (centre) and his fellow members of the Fairer Fife Commission have presented their ambitious plan to tackle poverty in Fife.
Chairman Martyn Evans (centre) and his fellow members of the Fairer Fife Commission have presented their ambitious plan to tackle poverty in Fife.

An independent commission has set out a far-reaching vision to eradicate poverty in Fife.

‘Fairness Matters’, the report of the Fairer Fife Commission, is challenging Fife Council, public services, charities and businesses in Fife to work together to deliver a “significantly fairer Fife by 2030”.

Over 40 recommendations are listed in the hard-hitting report, including a push on building more affordable housing, encouraging a million more hours of volunteering a year, creating a new apprenticeship for every £1 million of public expenditure in Fife, a call for free travel cards for low income families, and more support for people facing welfare benefit sanctions.

The Fairer Fife Commission was established by Fife Council in September last year to examine the root causes of poverty in Fife communities and make recommendations on how best to tackle the issue.

Membership was made up of senior figures, who gave up their time freely, from across public, private and voluntary sectors.

At its launch today (Monday), at the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy, the report was formally handed over by Martyn Evans, chairman of the commission and chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, to Fife Council leader David Ross.

Cllr Ross welcomed the report, calling it “a document of huge significance for Fife”.

He said: “We estimate that around 75,000 people are directly affected by poverty in Fife – a situation that is completely unacceptable in the 21st century. But the impact, the cost and the loss of potential through poverty are things that concern us all.

“We set up this independent commission to bring together expertise and knowledge from across Scotland, to help us tackle this blight on our society, and consider how the council and its partners can make a real difference to people’s lives.

“This report is the result of a lot of hard work and thought and my thanks and appreciation go out to all the commissioners who gave up their valuable time to focus on this project over the last year.

“Our pledge now is that the recommendations made here will shape the future direction of public services in Fife and will have a positive impact on people who need it most.”

The Commission met regularly over the course of the year, focussing on issues including financial capability, welfare advice, transport links, employability skills, childcare provision, early years services, educational attainment, health inequalities, housing and homelessness and addressing stigma.

They heard evidence from looked after children, users of foodbanks, people suffering the effects of sanctions, and others whose lives are affected by poverty.

Mr Evans said: “It was a great privilege to be asked to chair the Fairer Fife Commission. I am grateful to my fellow commissioners for the commitment, energy and expertise that they brought to this process.

“I am also grateful to the many citizens and organisations across Fife who took time to submit evidence and share their views and experiences about what can be done to tackle inequality in Fife and make it a fairer place to live and work. Their input has been critical in shaping our final report.

“We have set out an ambitious set of recommendations for Fife Council and its partners in the public, private and voluntary sector.

“These proposals are challenging and will require new ways of working across many areas of policy and practice.

The Commission defines a Fairer Fife as somewhere “where all residents have the capability to live good lives, make choices and reach their full potential and where all children are safe, happy and healthy”.

The report’s recommendations are collated under eight themes. A Fairer Fife is: ambitious, poverty-free, fair work, affordable, connected, empowered, skilled and healthier.

One of the key recommendations is that the council and its partners should be more ambitious in the work they do, aiming to be one of the best performing local authority areas in Scotland where “people feel enabled, supported and confident to access the opportunities available”.