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Community / Help to tackle poverty already available, says council chief

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

A ‘LIGHT touch’ support system set up to support struggling families and to tackle poverty and inequalities in the isles is being rolled out to all schools in Shetland following a successful pilot at Sound in Lerwick.

The Anchor early action project applies an innovative holistic approach to ensure that appropriate support is available for families facing practical and emotional challenges.

Responding to a call from local food entrepreneur David Polson for a Shetland Children’s Trust to be set up to eradicate child poverty in the isles, the council’s chief executive Maggie Sandison said that organisation like this had already been set up, achieving results by working quietly behind the scene.

‘No bairn in Shetland should ever go hungry again’

The Anchor project started at the Sound Primary School in April 2019 after securing funding from the Big Lottery community fund.

It provides a whole range of practical support from guiding often hesitant families towards additional support which could come in the form of food parcels, voucher for local shops, help with employability or debts, mental health issues and many more.

Describing the impact as often “life-changing”, Sandison added: “The support mechanisms are there for people, it is about connecting people and being the bridge to get them the support that they need.”

She said that most of the time the issues were not about a lack of funding to help, but about finding the confidence to access help that is already available.

“We have fantastic services, they are so much better than in other places,” Sandison said.

“The problem is how difficult it is for people to access these because people feeling so visible in the community, and the stigma [attached].

“If the council became aware of somebody with a need, we will sort it. We fill up people’s electricity meters regularly because they got no electricity on their cards; we take them food.

“It happens all the time, it happens under the radar which is a good thing because people are not being identified, but the help is there.”

More information, including contact details, about the Anchor early action project can be found at the council’s website here.