An anti-poverty plan is set to be developed with key stakeholders with cabinet councillors discussing a report about food justice and tackling poverty next week (Cabinet, Tuesday 27 July).
The proposed plan is one of several recommendations made in the report about tackling poverty in Southend and the rising number of people relying on additional services as the Borough recovers from Covid.
The number of people relying on food banks in the UK increased by 33% in 2020/21 according to the Trussell Trust and in Southend, a financial wellbeing survey put out by the benefits and commissioning team in early 2020, found over 50% of the 270 respondents said they struggled to provide food, clothing and basic essentials for their families.
The report outlines the work which has been started by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to tackle some of the issues relating to poverty, such as there was a motion for a Food Justice Champion and plans to maximise the impact of food initiatives via the Food Alliance, to help supply and demand for services.
There has also been the introduction of ‘Call Before You Serve’ to help landlords and to help tenants avoid homelessness, and selective Licencing for landlords will help improve housing conditions in four of the Borough’s wards.
Additional focus is still needed in some areas, for example increasing access to electronic devices and the internet, associated skills for employment as the furlough scheme ends, and reassurance and advice for those with financial worries.
Cllr Anne Jones, cabinet member for communities and housing, said: “Studies show even when people are working, the cost of living has got to such a point that to pay their bills, they can’t eat and there’s something inherently wrong about that.
“This strategy, if adopted and developed is a priority for this administration and will define local minimum standards of living, prioritise those standards and allow the Council to allocate resources appropriately and to those who need it most. It will also tackle poverty from all angles – food, digital, opportunity and fuel, so we are treating the causes of the problem, not just one of the outcomes.
“Local resources are finite but the need for support is increasing so by adopting a strategy, resources will be coordinated, prioritised and any gaps in service identified and fixed. We need a joined-up approach to tackling this issue, we cannot do it alone. Luckily in Southend there are a raft of helpful organisations on hand and hopefully we can all work together to lift our neighbours out of poverty.”