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Viewpoint / ‘No bairn in Shetland should ever go hungry again’

Following news that Shetland’s oil funds have grown by a whopping £250 million on the global money markets, local food entrepreneur David Polson is floating the idea of creating a Shetland Children’s Trust

SHETLAND’s two main oil funds have grown by quarter of a billion pounds in the last 12-months. Remarkable! A huge and unexpected windfall!

Thule Ventus founder David Polson. Photo: Shetland Food and Drink.

Over the years, the amount created by oil income and investment, and the amount spent is, and has been fantastic. Shrewd management and a tight rein on public expectations has served Shetland well.

Yet, some bairns are fantin. According to some reports, 10% of folk live at or below poverty levels. It’s not just feckless parenting. Many struggle financially, in a way that I am lucky to have no appreciation of. Even if it is feckless parenting, the bairn is innocent. The bairn is fanting.

Foodbanks in Shetland? With all the money that is sloshing about in public trusts?

To paraphrase the late John Nicolson “What’s the point of leaving a kyst of money?”

What did he mean? He meant that we should spend more of the money now, on infrastructure, services and industry, rather than leave the next generation an even bigger kyst of money, when there would be nothing left in Shetland to keep the next generation in the isles.

I think we should use a portion of this £250m windfall to ensure that no bairn in Shetland should ever go hungry again.

I think we should create a new trust. The sole purpose of which should be to support those children whose accident of birth does not place them in a high income home. Call it something like Shetland Children’s Trust.

I suggest that this trust should be adequately funded, so that it can undertake its activities in perpetuity, i.e. it should have enough capital, so that income generated can pay for services while retaining enough to take account of inflation.

Let this new trust change many lives in Shetland for generations.

The SIC has had a £100m increase in funds, and the Shetland Charitable Trust has seen £150m increase. I suggest that they transfer funds at a 40/60 ratio into the new trust.

 

I’ve no idea how many bairns in Shetland do not have enough – how many have insufficient food, heat, clothes, toys, heat? If its 10 per cent, as per the general population of poverty, then you are speaking about 500 bairns – probably half of those in severe poverty.

It’s hellish and life-chance limiting for them and somewhat obscene given what we as a community hoard.

What would this new trust do?

Well, the following is only an example, I don’t pretend to know the real-life costs of providing these services. I only use the items to serve as an illustration of the ambition, and the funds required by the new trust to achieve its goals.

I’d suggest that the new trust:

  1. Uses a measure to identify eligible children, for example, those households in fuel poverty, parents eligible for certain benefits etc;
  2. In school term: provides funding for either/and/or pre-school and after school meals – provided at the school/nursery or as a take away (to avoid issues with school transport) from the school – say 500 bairns/day at £6/day = £550,00, plus weekend food vouchers – £5/bairn per day = £190,000;
  3. During holidays: either school meal twice a day or food boxes – 500 bairns/food boxes at £6/day for 15 weeks = £315,000;
  4. Pre-school bairns: food vouchers/boxes 100 bairns x £3/day x 365 = £109,500;
  5. Clothes vouchers of some description – e.g. sufficient for two sets of school clothes and shoes per year (i.e. two of everything + seven x socks/underwear, shoes, PE/swimming kit) – say 500 bairns x £150 = £75,000;
  6. Provide one birthday and two Christmas presents per child – say 500 x £100 = £50,000;
  7. Provide books and stationery to each child of £40 per year = £20,000;
  8. Provide the equivalent of £4 per bairn, per day, to be spent as required on services relating to alcohol and substance misuse, mental health issue and other support services for parents, to be spent as required – £730,000 (additional to any other existing spending).
    Granted, much of this might be wasted, but there will be successes that will transform the lives of whole families;
  9. All food, clothes, and toys to be sourced from Shetland based businesses – no sourcing from supermarkets (written into trust deeds).
    Let’s keep the money in Shetland – get the use of it twice. Let’s boost the businesses that employ people throughout Shetland, to sustain and create the jobs that might lift those struggling out of poverty.

The above nine points come to £1,958,500 per annum, say 15 per cent to administer, and call it £2.25m

Of the £250m windfall, I suggest that the SIC transfers £30m and SCT transfers £45 into a new Trust – to set aside £75m.

The £75m Shetland Children’s Trust (or similar name) should aim for a six per cent return to keep pace with inflation and £2.25m spending plan.

Do you approve as a socialist leftie, would-be capitalist philanthropist, take a self-enlightened view that this is helping to break a chain of deprivation that will be for the common good, or do you simply think no matter what the circumstances of the parents are, that no bairn should ever be hungry in Shetland?