Getting cash into the pockets of struggling families is the first and best way to begin to reverse child poverty. That was the consensus amongst public sector and third sector representatives, children’s charities, policy makers, anti-poverty campaigners, and academics at Aberlour’s recent ‘Cash Now Families Always’ online event.
Aberlour is committed to ending child poverty, and, alongside other children’s charities, has been a leading campaigner on the issue of child poverty. However, child poverty in Scotland continues to rise and more and urgent action is desperately needed. Applications to Aberlour’s own Urgent Assistance Fund for families experiencing extreme financial hardship have increased by more than 1000% during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At Aberlour, we believe if we are serious in Scotland about tackling child poverty then it is crucial to get money directly to those families who need it most to help lift them out of poverty.
Ensuring families have the means to provide for themselves through a ‘cash first’ approach promotes dignity, respect, and choice for families by getting cash directly to families to spend on the things they choose to meet their families’ needs. Making sure struggling families get the extra help they need to address the impact of poverty is the next step.
The event aimed to highlight Aberlour’s commitment to a cash first approach in responding to immediate financial hardship that families experience and looking at what more can be done to make sure families get the practical and emotional help they also need. At the event, people heard Sue share her story and what the day-to-day reality is for families who are struggling to get by.
The event was chaired by Bill Scott, Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, and the panel included Aberlour CEO, SallyAnn Kelly, Professor Morag Treanor from Heriot-Watt University, Jane O’Donnell from CoSLA and Danny Boyle from the network organisation, BEMIS.
All attendees participated in smaller group discussions, where there was agreement that a cash first approach was the best and most direct way to support struggling families and to help alleviate child poverty.
Professor Treanor also presented her research into the use of Aberlour’s Urgent Assistance Fund during the pandemic. She revealed that more than 60% of families requesting assistance have required help with the provision of food for themselves and their children.
Families throughout the country are increasingly requesting assistance from Aberlour in order to pay utility bills or purchase essentials, such as baby items, children’s clothing, beds, bedding, and white goods.
Commenting on the items that families requested assistance with to purchase for themselves and their children through the fund, Professor Treanor said: “This is indicative of levels of poverty that would be considered more absolute than relative”.
Professor Treanor’s research also highlighted that single parents account for more than 70% of those families who received support. In addition, families living with a disability or illness, families affected by domestic abuse, families affected by parental mental health issues, as well as asylum-seeking families and families with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’, are those most commonly receiving assistance through the Fund.
The level of need experienced by families accessing Aberlour’s Urgent Assistance Fund has illustrated that the pandemic has exacerbated already difficult situations for many families around the country. Families who were walking a tightrope of financial insecurity beforehand have now been pushed, or have fallen deeper, into poverty.
In May next year, there will be elections to the Scottish Parliament. Aberlour, alongside partner organisations, is campaigning to ask all political parties to commit to take the necessary and urgent action required to end child poverty in Scotland. Closing the event, SallyAnn Kelly remarked: “We know that if we can support families by providing an adequate income then that will go a long way to alleviating the stress on parents. [As a result of the pandemic] We now have an opportunity not only to build back better but to build back fairer”.
Watch Professor Treanor’s presentation and highlights of the panel discussion here