A “quadruple whammy” of financial troubles has sparked concerns that child poverty could worsen.
The SIC’s policy and resources committee today (Monday) heard fierce criticism of the UK government’s decision to remove the £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments – which was seen as being one of several factors set to worsen poverty.
Shetland Central member Davie Sandison said it was part of a “quadruple whammy” which also included the end of furlough, rising energy prices and the approach of winter.
“It’s a worrying outlook,” he said.
Education and families committee chairman George Smith said the cut to Universal Credit “cannot be acceptable” at a time when families were still struggling through the pandemic; while Shetland South member Allison Duncan described the moved as “disgusting”.
Lerwick North member John Fraser likened the Tory ministers behind the decision to the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”
He said it was “tragic”.
Robbie McGregor said it “beggars belief” that anyone could think the reduction in Universal Credit could help at a time people were struggling.
Mr McGregor “gently” accused the council of a “wee bit of Dickensian attitude” in its approach to tackling poverty.
He noted the SIC had seen the value of its external investments increase by more than £20m in three months and should therefore consider using some of that to address the problem.
Chief executive Maggie Sandison replied saying Shetland had one of the lowest levels of child poverty in Scotland, and many of the SIC’s services were already aimed at supporting people with needs arising from their financial circumstances.
Mrs Sandison said one of the “biggest challenges” was getting people to access the help that was available.
Inclusion manager Lesley Simpson said it was a “very difficult and muddled landscape” for people seeking financial help and it therefore important to signpost people in the right direction.
She also said it was important to address the “stigma” around poverty to create a more “understanding and inclusive” attitude.
Mr Duncan questioned whether a new trust could be set up specifically to address fuel poverty and child poverty.
However, Mrs Sandison said the creation of a new body would mean the council had less influence and control in tackling child poverty.
Mr Fraser suggested the council could engage with people who had overcome adversity so that council services could be aimed at preventing others suffering the same challenges.