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Council's revised Anti-poverty Strategy to help people on low incomes

News release from 30/07/2020

CAMBRIDGE city councillors have approved a revised and updated Anti-poverty Strategy that will focus on improving the lives of Cambridge residents who are struggling in the current economic climate.

Cllr Anna Smith, Executive Councillor for Communities, said: “The council is resolute in its commitment to tackling the poverty and inequality that exists in Cambridge.

“We know that the impacts of Coronavirus and lockdown may well make life harder for the most vulnerable people in Cambridge – we want to do all we can to alleviate and address these impacts, working in partnership, as now, with our wonderful community and neighbourhood groups, as well as with individuals and local businesses.

“We have taken forward a wide range of initiatives over the past three years, from increasing incomes by promoting the Real Living Wage to employers, to building new council homes to provide more affordable housing in the city.

“We have supported a wide range of initiatives to address the constant challenges faced by people in poverty, including financial crisis, food poverty, digital exclusion and fuel poverty, but while poverty continues to exists, we will always want to do more.

“So over the next three years, through our revised Anti-Poverty Strategy, the council will seek to address some of the root causes of poverty in the city, as well as continuing to support residents who are in immediate financial crisis.

“To do this, we will work directly through our own city council services and with partners in the voluntary, public and corporate sectors. We will look not just to tell communities what to do - we don’t want to patronise people in poverty. Instead we want to work alongside communities, in partnership.”

The council’s Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee considered a report which explained the Council’s revised Anti-poverty Strategy.

This sets out an evolution of the council’s strategic approach to tackling poverty, which reflects learning from implementing its previous two Anti-poverty Strategies over the past six years.

The revised strategy sets out three underpinning themes for the council’s future approach:

1. Combining the council’s ongoing efforts to address the effects of poverty with a further focus on preventative work (often in partnership with other organisations) to address some of the root causes of poverty;
2. Direct council service delivery where we are best placed to lead, supporting partners where they have greater skills, and being proactive influencing and lobbying activity;
3. Working together with communities to avoid a top-down approach. This will involve building on the mutual aid groups that have been established in recent months in response to coronavirus, and on local, community-led initiatives that have taken place over a number of years.

The revised strategy also sets out a range of activity including:

  • Working with partner organisations and local communities to support residents experiencing economic hardship and poverty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic;
  • Continuing to promote Living Wage accreditation to employers in Cambridge, including University Colleges, businesses and other organisations;
  • Encouraging businesses to make financial contributions or provide skilled volunteers to support voluntary and community groups that are tackling poverty and disadvantage;
  • Exploring opportunities to spread the benefits of economic growth through the development of the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan;
  • Ensuring that the proposed development and regeneration of the North East Cambridge area maximises local employment, skills and training opportunities and provide new affordable housing;
  • Providing 500 new council homes through the £70 million funding secured as part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Devolution Deal with government, and developing a plan for further new council homes;
  • Completing a new Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy and implementing a range of innovative initiatives to reduce homelessness including Housing First, Housing Benefit Plus and Cambridge Street Aid;
  • Supporting council tenants and older people to get online and supporting a partnership of voluntary and community groups to increase digital inclusion;
  • Working in partnership with local voluntary and community groups to address food poverty, including funding and working with Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance and Cambridge Sustainable Food to develop a food re-distribution hub;
  • Working with partner agencies and community groups to develop sustainable networks to support residents in fuel or water poverty to reduce their energy and water costs;
  • Providing free swimming sessions for low income families with children, discounted swimming sessions for young people, and discounted entry to swimming pools for people receiving benefits;
  • Providing additional swimming teachers to support school swimming lessons for pupils from low income households at Abbey Pool, King’s Hedges Learner Pool and Parkside Pools.

The committee report also reflected on the impact of a range of initiatives that have been implemented over the past three years (2017-2020) as part of the council’s previous Anti-poverty Strategy, including:

  • Paying all council staff at least the Living Wage and promoting the Living Wage to employers within the city. 74 employers in Cambridge are now accredited with the Living Wage Foundation, of which the council provided direct support to 40;
  • Funding a range of activity to provide people with financial advice, including advice on benefits, personal budgeting and debt. This included: employing a Financial Inclusion Officer; providing grant funding to Citizens Advice to provide debt advice services; funding an advisor at Job Centre Plus to provide Universal Credit claimants with personal budgeting advice; and an outreach advisor at health and community centres to support people experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of financial difficulties;
  • Promoting schemes that can reduce people’s utility bills, including energy and water saving measures. 618 home visits to vulnerable residents were carried out over the past three years by the council;
  • Helping people on low incomes to get online and develop the digital skills needed to search for jobs, complete online applications and access public services. 727 learners attended drop-in digital sessions delivered by Cambridge Online, and 13 volunteer digital champions provided 446 digital inclusion sessions for older people;
  • Constructing 189 new council-owned homes and making them available at affordable rent levels.

For more information on the council’s approach to tackling poverty visit: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/anti-poverty-strategy