Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Can you challenge poverty this week?

Can you challenge poverty this week?
05 October 2018

Local people are being asked to keep an eye out for disadvantage in all its guises this Challenge Poverty week.

A new local study has found that around 10-15% of children in Orkney are adversely affected by childhood poverty.

The report, entitled Poverty and Disadvantage – Factors that affect Children and Young People in Orkney – came about after the issue was highlighted at the Growing Up in Orkney conference.

Jointly hosted the Orkney Public Protection Committee and Orkney Children and Young People Partnership in February 2017 , the conference heard that children and young people in Orkney faced many challenges as a result of poverty that were directly impacting on their childhood.

Indicators in the study, which was commissioned following the conference, show that children and young people in Orkney can be affected by many things – for example, living in a cold house, not being able to take part in social activities due to lack of transport or money or having to care for a family member, as well as families struggling to meet the costs of feeding and clothing children.

Chair of the OCYPP, Scott Hunter, said: “Orkney is consistently reported as being one of the best and happiest places to live in the UK, and for a lot of our families, children and young people this is true, however a number of our families are having to make really difficult choices every day.

“We are fortunate to have one of the highest employment rates – but when you scratch beneath the surface there’s a high proportion of people employed in low-paid or seasonal work. We also have the highest rate of fuel poverty – that can make it hard for kids to concentrate on homework and can make them more susceptible to recurring illnesses.

“Added to that we have a small and dispersed population – so people needing support are spread out and not easily identifiable, or able to access that help.

“The report does make a number of recommendations, and we’ll be working as a partnership to see which we can take forward quickly, and which we will need to take to other organisations and community groups to help progress.

“Meantime, our message this Challenge Poverty week is that tackling disadvantage has to be a whole community effort so we can see a fairer Orkney in the future where the benefits of living and growing up in Orkney are available to all our children and young people. We’d urge everyone to consider what they can do to ensure no child or young person in our community is left out or left behind.

“Sometimes that might mean just noticing children who are consistently not involved in out of school activities – or considering whether the way you run or charge for activities and services might disadvantage or embarrass families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

Actions the Partnership will be working on:

  • Developing a formal Poverty Action Plan by June 2019 (is this a Scottish Gov requirement? – We have a statutory requirement to report annually now).
  • Be working with local groups on a ‘Poverty Proofing toolkit’ that can be used by community groups to scrutinise their activities and services for any unintended disadvantage or barriers they create.

Orkney’s ambition for children and young people is that this is a place where service providers and community work together so that, as children and young people grow up, they get the right help, at the right time, in the right way. Anyone who has a role or relationship with children and young people can be a member of the Orkney Childcare and Young People’s Partnership and the work of the Partnership is overseen by a steering group, consisting of a mix of professional, political and community representation.

The report is available on the Partnership website.