Poverty is an unnecessary evil in the twenty first century. It ruins life chances and spoils the quality of life of those impacted. In terms of national social policy we have made little impact on persistent poverty in recent years, and it impacts on a high proportion of people, even in so called affluent communities. Many of our Council services are steeped in the prevention and alleviation of poverty, from the administration of welfare benefits, through to public health interventions, tackling rough sleeping and economic and community development activities.
There is more than one definition of poverty and it can mean different things to different people, but it is generally considered that someone is in poverty when they are not able to heat their home, pay their rent, pay for food or buy the essentials for their children.
There are 4 levels of poverty according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2019:
- Income at minimum income standard or better – able to afford a decent standard of living
- Income below minimum income standard – getting by day-to-day but under pressure, difficult to manage unexpected costs and events
- Not enough income – falling substantially short of a decent standard of living, high chance of not meeting needs
- Destitute – can’t afford to eat, keep clean and stay warm and dry
Poverty is most commonly measured using either:
- People in relative low income – living in households with income below 60% of the median in that year;
- People in absolute low income – living in households with income below 60% of (inflation adjusted) median income in some base year, usually 2010/11.
Poverty prevention and alleviation is a priority for this Council. This ambition is prominent in the Council Plan. Our report to Cabinet on 6th January 2021 – Poverty – our response to the crisis – earlier this year provided a progress report towards the task of producing a Poverty Strategy.
We are witnessing a stubborn level of poverty nationally and locally with signs of this worsening with the economic damage done by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our Poverty – A Local Picture report produced in November 2019 was an extensive piece of research on poverty that included a local flavour and found:
- In East Devon 15.5% of households live below the 60% of median income.
- For East Devon it is estimated that 10,899 households are below the poverty line.
- This translates into 23,978 people in poverty assuming average households comprise 2.2 people (Knowing East Devon).
- East Devon’s child poverty rate is 22.3% below the national average (34%) but concerning.
For many years a number of our Services have been supporting low income groups maintain a quality of life through providing subsidised housing; assisting access to affordable housing; administering benefits and hardship payments; enabling full employment and quality jobs; business support and economic development; supporting community development; promoting public health initiatives and enabling health & wellbeing activities; funding financial and debt advice; supporting community and voluntary groups; etc.
During the pandemic we have been administering hardship funds; test & trace payments; Local Restrictions Support Grant; Additional Restrictions Grants; Business Rate Relief; Community Support Hub; Corona virus Community Food Fund; Covid-19 Prompt Action Fund; as the main sources of financial support that relate specifically to the pandemic.