Councillors will next week be asked to endorse a number of initiatives aimed at reducing poverty and improving the lives of people living in South Tyneside.
The People Select Committee started an in-depth investigation into poverty two years ago with a view to ensuring the Council is doing all it can to help people escape poverty while supporting those in difficult circumstances.
Members of the Cabinet will be told next week that poverty is impacted by various factors such as the ongoing effect of Universal Credit and welfare reform, access to health and social care and the impact of Covid19.
Fuel poverty is a key issue in South Tyneside which affects more than 6,000 households. The Council is looking to make improvements to its own housing stock to make homes more efficient while ensuring that those in need receive benefit checks to maximise their income. A fuel poverty strategy will also help to tackle the problem.
A report to Cabinet highlights how food banks have played an increasingly important role in helping those hardest hit by the pandemic. From meetings with food banks, councillors have learned that poverty affects not only the unemployed but increasingly the working poor and older residents While the work of food banks cannot be overstated, the report highlights that their services should be regarded as 'crisis intervention' and not the norm.
Members of the Cabinet will be asked to endorse a number of recommendations to tackle poverty including: the Council working with the Feeding Britain Network to develop a single access point for food bank provision; encouraging housing developers to build carbon neutral homes; and developing a training pack for the voluntary sector aimed at raising awareness of the features of poverty. Members will also be asked to consider setting up a Poverty Truth Commission. This would bring together community, civic and business representatives with people with experience of living in poverty to better understand the effects of poverty first-hand and involve those who experience poverty to have a real influence in formulating solutions.
Cllr Anne Hetherington, Lead Member for Independence and Wellbeing, said: "The root causes of poverty are many and varied but, especially in light of the pandemic, it is essential that we take a strategic view and assure ourselves that we are doing everything we possibly can to help people affected by poverty."
Supporting families and older or more vulnerable communities is one of the Leader's core priorities.
Chair of the People Select Committee, Councillor John McCabe, added: "The People Select Committee has investigated in depth for many months now the extent of poverty in the Borough.
"We have already given Cabinet a number of recommendations which have been accepted and adopted to try and alleviate poverty in the Borough.
"Working with a wide spectrum of partners we will in the coming months work to achieve a vastly diminished number of our residents living in poverty. The goal for us all should be to eliminate poverty in the Borough."