The councillor leading the campaign to eliminate child poverty from the Capital urged Lothian buses to step in and help amid calls for the entire city to play its part.
The city’s child poverty action unit will present its first report to the Scottish Government in June – including a list of aims to reduce the number of children living in poverty. In Edinburgh, an average of 22 per cent of children live in poverty, while in some parts of the Capital, it’s as high as 35 per cent of youngsters living in relative poverty.
The cross-party action unit also includes teachers, PSAs, nurseries, mental health and public health experts, input from housing, family support and social workers – as well as young people themselves.
Chairwoman, Cllr Alison Dickie, also the council’s vice education, children and families convener, has called for everyone to take responsibility in helping improve young lives.
She said: “Edinburgh is a lovely city, great for many – but I hate the deep inequality. Schools cannot do this alone – that’s why partners are really important. The focus has got to be on action now. I weep about the social isolation that exists in this city of all ages. I think we have lost sight of what really matters. It’s actually just simple acts and schools are really beginning to lead on that.
“Most of all, it’s about removing stigma, the level of which absolutely shocks me. Until our city is ready to work together, learn together and live together, removing that stigma is fundamental.”
The council has already helped reduce levels of poverty through its schools-based 1 in 5 project while income maximisation has recouped hundreds of thousands of pounds in unclaimed benefits for families. Work has also been done over holiday hunger, period poverty and school uniform grants.
Ideas being touted includes an appeal to Lothian buses for tickets for school trips being provided free of charge in order to allow all pupils to enjoy the same experiences.
Cllr Dickie said: “We’re going to challenge Lothian buses on that if they want to help us. Lothian buses would make my day if they would just provide those free bus fares for school trips.
“That would really help – the schools are saying it would be great. As a teacher, you take out your whole class on a bus to a museum, but some people don’t get to those museums. It’s coming out of school budgets so if those tickets were free, it would really free up a lot.”
Other ideas could include extending food support and family support services and potentially adding more money onto free school dinner cards and reviewing portion sizes.
Cllr Dickie added: “We potentially at the end of this will have to fight for more money. We are building an inclusive city, we are building it in times of limited resources.
“We need to look at some of the decisions about hall hire costs and costs of activities. If we make that unaffordable for families, then there are issues there.”