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Council / Councillor ‘ashamed’ by child poverty figure

Councillor Robbie McGregor. Photo: Andrew Gibson/Millgaet Media

A LOCAL councillor says he is “deeply ashamed” that figures show around one in seven children in Shetland live in poverty.

Shetland South member Robbie McGregor said he found the figure “appalling” given the isles were “one of the richest places in Scotland”.

He told a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s policy and resources committee on Monday that a newly published child poverty action report for Shetland “makes a lot of good ideas, so let’s get on with it and get this ridiculous situation sorted”.

Other members were keen to also highlight the importance of fuel poverty and other wider factors such as employment.

Lerwick South member John Fraser said “poverty’s poverty” regardless of the definition.

Council leader Emma Macdonald said child poverty is partly about “ensuring people have good quality jobs, that they have all the things they need to improve those children’s outcomes”.

“That’s on everybody within this council to tackle, and also on the government to help to deliver on that as well,” she said.

Shetland’s annual local child poverty action report was presented to Monday’s meeting.

It was previously considered by members of the education and families committee last month.

Community planning team leader Emma Perring said the national poverty figures do not factor in the higher cost of living in Shetland.

Mirroring Scotland as a whole, child poverty figures in Shetland have gradually increased since the early 2010s.

The council and NHS Shetland have a statutory duty to produce an annual report on current and future activity to reduce child poverty.

This includes supporting the Anchor early intervention project and developing a project to find financially vulnerable households in order to support them to improve their finances and employment.

During Monday’s meeting Lerwick South councillor Dennis Leask also spoke up for the town’s district heating scheme, which can provide residents with cheaper bills.

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“We need to start working across different organisations within Shetland to try and solve some of these problems,” he said.

Shetland Central’s Catherine Hughson also recognised the willingness to “work outside the box” across partnerships and noted the success of the Anchor project in taking away “stigmatism and bureaucracy”.

Fraser meanwhile said councillors can get caught up in definitions around poverty.

“Every single one of them is linked to the other in some manner or some way,” he said.

The town councillor added while the report was very useful and informative, he suggested there are too many statutory reports required of SIC officers.

He said reports are taking up an “inordinate amount of time” of officers that could otherwise be spent on doing the things detailed in the plan.

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