Poverty in Fife: one in four children living in poverty, new report reveals

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Nearly one in four children in Fife are living in poverty before housing costs are taken into account, a new report has revealed.

The child poverty rates in the Kingdom and across Scotland have risen from 17% in 2020 to 23% in 2021/22 according to the latest annual Public Health Report. Poverty rates are also higher in some parts of Fife than others, generally following patterns of deprivation.

The report from Dr Joy Tomlinson, NHS Fife director of public health, outlined the effects it has on public health.

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“It affects opportunities for health, learning and development from pregnancy onwards, which can have lifelong consequences. The current cost of living crisis has made it more difficult for many families,” it said.

The report underlined the impact of poverty on the healthy and wellbeing of young children across Fife (Pic: John Devlin)The report underlined the impact of poverty on the healthy and wellbeing of young children across Fife (Pic: John Devlin)
The report underlined the impact of poverty on the healthy and wellbeing of young children across Fife (Pic: John Devlin)

Dr Tomlinson and her department also revealed that alcohol and drug related hospital admissions for young people in Fife are higher than the rate in Scotland,

“It’s an indicator of serious harm from alcohol affecting some of our young people,” the report stated.

In Fife there is a high alcohol related admission rate for 11-25 year olds with an annual average of 252 admissions in the previous three years. Admissions due to drug use in young people have also been increasing and are higher than the national rate, with 144 admissions on average in each of the last three years.

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Alongside its other findings, the report said the prevalence of poor mental health and emotional wellbeing across Scotland’s children and young people has steadily increased over the past five years. According to the data, services supporting children and young people are experiencing year on year increases in both presentation and complexity.

The 2021 SHINE mental health survey indicated that young people in Fife are struggling with self-confidence, loneliness, poor body image and maintaining positive peer relationships.

“Mental health and wellbeing in children and young people has been a concern before the pandemic, but this has been exacerbated by withdrawal of usual activities and support at that time,” the report stated. “Levels of wellbeing in girls in secondary school age are of particular concern, and this has been noted nationally for some time.”

The report went before the NHS Fife board on Tuesday for acknowledgement, and it highlighted potential areas for improvement.

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“Investment in early years has the greatest economic impact on human development. Tackling child poverty through increasing incomes, reducing costs and maximising benefits can make a huge difference to children and families,” the report said. “Policy and action relating to health behaviours such as smoking, obesity, diet, alcohol and drugs need to take more account of the damaging reproductive effects and impact on children. Addressing structural issues such as housing and environment will help create positive places for families now and for the next generation, taking into account inclusion and diversity.”

And Dr Lorna Watson, deputy director of public health, added: “I think this is maybe the start of us disseminating and having conversations about this report, it’s just coming back to MPs about investment in the early years.”