5. Evolving our approach - our strategy for tackling poverty
The Council’s approach set out in this strategy reflects updated evidence on the nature of poverty in East Devon and changes in the national context over the past ten years.
This learning includes:
- The importance of balancing efforts to address the immediate effects of poverty, with preventative work to address the root causes of poverty.
- Being clear on which issues can be addressed by direct delivery by Council services, which issues can be achieved through partnership working (where more can be achieved through collaboration) and which issues require influencing and lobbying activity (where powers lie with Government or other agencies).
- A need to build the capacity and resilience of residents and communities.
These three lessons inform the three underpinning themes in this strategy which are outlined below.
This Strategy has been shaped and encouraged through the work of the Council’s Poverty Working Panel established to gather evidence on poverty and develop a plan to alleviate poverty in the district.
Three underpinning themes
1. Addressing the causes and effects of poverty
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation identifies a number of different causes of poverty. Some of these causes can also be consequences, creating a cycle that can trap people in poverty. The causes are summarised in the table below.
Unemployment and low-paid jobs lacking prospects and security
|Low pay leads to low income and inadequate savings or pensions. Indebtedness adds to the adverse financial situation for many households. Redundancy amongst older people can also be a factor in poverty.|
|Low levels of skills or education||Low levels of skills or education make it difficult to secure a job, with security, prospects and decent pay.|
|An ineffective benefit system||A range of issues with the current benefits system, including insufficient levels of benefits to meet high costs; difficulties in moving into work or increasing hours; difficulties in engaging with the benefits system and delays; and low up-take of some benefits.|
|High costs of housing and goods and services||High living costs can help create poverty, including high costs for housing, goods and services, and higher costs due to increased need (e.g. personal care for disabled people). There can also be a ‘poverty premium’, where people in poverty pay more for the same goods and services.|
|Discrimination||Discrimination can limit people’s access to good qualifications or jobs and can restrict access to services|
|Weak family relationships||Family breakdown can lead to poverty and lack of supportive parenting can impact on a child’s education and development. Domestic abuse can also have poverty implications.|
|Chaotic lives and traumatic life events||Chaotic lifestyles Including problematic use of drugs and alcohol. Poverty can also occur with sudden onset of illness, disability or other life changing events.|
|Abuse or trauma||Neglect or abuse as a child, or trauma in adult life, can have negative impacts on a person’s mental health, which can contribute to poverty.|
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation also identifies a number of key effects of poverty, some of which are similar to some of the causes of poverty listed above:
- housing problems
- being a victim or perpetrator of crime
- health problems - including mental and physical health
- drug or alcohol problems
- teenage parenthood
- relationship and family problems
- lower educational achievement
- poverty itself – poverty in childhood increases the risk of poverty in adulthood
The Poverty Working Panel considered that discussions with key stakeholders and residents combined with local knowledge confirmed that many of the issues identified by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation impact on residents in poverty in East Devon. In addition to these issues, residents and consultees identified the issues summarised in the table below:
|Difficulty meeting basic needs||People in poverty can struggle to meet basic needs including food, fuel costs, furniture and appliances, and shelter.|
|Digital exclusion||People on low incomes are less likely to able to afford internet access, which can make it difficult to apply for Universal credit and other benefits, access cheaper utility deals, apply for jobs and access public services. Rural isolation can also be a factor in poverty.|
|Financial literacy||Including understanding of how to manage finances and debt.|
|Fuel poverty||People in poverty can experience fuel poverty, resulting from rising energy costs and poor home energy efficiency.|
|Impacts of welfare reforms||
Including the progressive roll-out of Universal Credit, the Benefits Cap, and the Spare Room Subsidy or ’Bedroom Tax’
The causes and effects of poverty identified by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and local stakeholders and consultees are summarised in the diagram below.
The causes and effects of poverty
|Low paid, insecure jobs||Difficulty meeting basic costs|
|Low skills or education||Housing problems|
|Ineffective benefits system||Homelessness|
|High cost of housing, goods and services||Becoming a victim or perpetrator or crime|
|Weak family relationships||Relationship and family problems|
|Childhood poverty||Lower educational achievement|
|Abuse or trauma||Digital exclusion|
This strategy seeks to balance our ongoing efforts to address the effects of poverty, with a further focus on preventative work (often in partnership with other agencies and organisations) to address some of the root causes of poverty outlined above.
2. Balancing direct delivery, partnership-working and influencing activity
A range of different organisations and factors have an impact on poverty in East Devon. As shown in the table below, the Council has varying levels of control and influence on these different organisations and factors, from Council service delivery, where the Council has direct control, through to national and international economic factors, where the Council has no control or influence.
The Council’s Sphere of Influence in relation to poverty
|Organisation / factors||Our level of influence|
|Council services||The council has direct control over the services that it provides.|
|Grant funded activity||The council sets the overall priorities for grant funding that it provides, such as the Community Grants and Homelessness Prevention Grants, but voluntary and community organisations submit applications for specific activities.|
|Communities||The council can influence local communities to share our vision and help facilitate community action and mutual aid|
|Partner strategies, services and activity||The council can influence partners activities and can work collaboratively with them, but it has no direct control.|
|Government policy||The council can influence Government policy, but it has no direct control|
|National and international economic factors||The council has no control over national and international economic trends that impact on poverty, such as automation, off-shoring and imports replacing local skilled jobs.|
The Council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy focuses primarily on actions that the Council can deliver directly, together with some actions that are delivered in partnership with public, voluntary and community partners. Our approach will seek to be clear on:
- which issues can be addressed by direct delivery by Council services;
- which issues can be achieved through partnership working (where more can be achieved through collaboration); and
- which issues require influencing and lobbying activity (where powers lie with Government or other agencies) to bring about change and secure funding.
The Action Plan that accompanies this strategy clearly highlights which actions will be achieved through direct service delivery, partnership working or influencing and lobbying.
Through its mainstream services the Council is well placed to take action to address some of the causes and effects of poverty identified above. For example, through provision of Council housing, housing advice services, and funding for homelessness support services, the Council can help to address housing affordability issues, housing problems and homelessness. The Council also provides and commissions a range of services that help promote public health and active lifestyles, and provides access to green spaces across East Devon.
However, as shown in the table below, there are many other issues where, while the Council provides some relevant service or grant funding, other local partners in the public, private or voluntary sector have greater responsibilities and capabilities to make a difference. Through this strategy, the Council will continue to seek opportunities to work effectively in partnership with these organisations.
|Issue||Lead agency or agencies|
Department for Work & Pensions (for Universal Credit, Job Seekers, etc.) Local Authority (Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction)
|Crime||Police, Probation Service|
|Mental and physical health problems||NHS, Devon County Council, Devon Partnership Trust|
|Discrimination||Voluntary and community groups focused on equalities issues|
|Family relationships, abuse and trauma||Devon County Council Social Services, voluntary and community groups|
There are aspects of poverty where the Government or other organisations have greatest influence and the Council currently has little or no service delivery responsibilities or regulatory powers. On these issues, the Council will seek to show ‘leadership’ and lobby for changes in Government policy and funding to address immediate financial needs and bring about long-term, lasting changes to the underlying causes of poverty. Some of these issues are shown in the table below.
|Issue||Lead agency or agencies|
|National policy on the benefits system||Government policy on welfare benefits|
|Unemployment, pay and job security||Government fiscal and labour market policy, local employers, JobCentre Plus|
|Skills and education||Government education and skills policy, schools, further education colleges, Universities|
3. Building the capacity of residents and communities, and facilitating community action and mutual support
The Council’s approach to tackling poverty will also focus on building the capacity of local residents and communities. The Council intends to work collaboratively with local residents, community groups and voluntary groups to build their capacity and help them to become more self-sustaining.
We will listen to residents’ views on local issues and work with communities to identify the solutions. As a Council, we will seek to coordinate and facilitate community action and mutual aid to help address poverty, focusing on the strengths and assets that communities bring to the table.
The outstanding community response to the Coronavirus emergency shows the desire East Devon residents and communities have to support each other, and particularly the most vulnerable. The emergence of a network of mutual aid groups potentially provides one route for developing this aspect of East Devon life, and the Council will continue to facilitate and build such community-led approaches in the period where the district begins to recover from the pandemic.