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New York-Wide Approach to Tackle Poverty


3:00pm 29th March 2013

Representatives from organisations across York came together to collectively address the challenge of poverty in the city and agree to the development of a city-wide targeted approach to stamping it out for good.

Whilst York currently has below national average levels of poverty a report presented to the city’s Without Walls Board - and being considered by the council’s Cabinet next month - carries the stark message that poverty is on the increase. It warns that Government welfare reforms and the absence of growth in adequately paid jobs will exacerbate this issue further in 2013/14.

The report also highlights the combined pressures of the prolonged economic downturn, lack of access to finance for businesses, cuts to public sector funding and services, higher levels of personal debt and a lack of housing for the city’s swiftly growing population as contributing factors in the increasing numbers of residents experiencing poverty.

In a bid to beat the issue once and for all, the Board discussed how the city might become more affordable, how it might work to eliminate the stigma attached to being in poverty and how it might ensure a Living Wage* for all who live and work in York. It then signed up to progress three key areas of work: the prevention of poverty by supporting people to maximise their life chances; the targeted support of those most at risk of poverty in helping to stabilise their financial circumstances; and – as a priority - the provision of immediate support to those currently considered in poverty.

Leading the event, Cllr James Alexander, Chair of Without Walls and leader of City of York Council said: “One of the council’s key priorities is the protection of vulnerable people and the creation of a fair and inclusive city for all. The Fairness Commission has recently provided an important insight into the existing issues of poverty, life expectancy, crime and social inclusion in York. As an organisation, we are particularly under pressure to meet the needs of those struggling with debts, the lack of affordable housing and rising energy and transport costs.

“We know that the number of residents at risk of falling into poverty is increasing at a rate beyond the ability of the council, in isolation, to manage. However, it is clear that with a city-wide approach, this is a problem which is ultimately surmountable. We have today made a firm collective commitment to do everything in our power to ensure poverty is eradicated in York. Its now time to get on and deliver.”

Cllr Gunnell, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services at City of York Council added: “We developed the Financial Inclusion Strategy last year to set in motion work to support residents with more co-ordinated advice and increase capacity to provide support to those most at risk of poverty. This, combined with the work set out today, will continue to be critical over the next few years as the impact of reduced public spending and welfare reforms begin to take their toll.

“Alongside the practical help, we need to ensure that we challenge the stigma and social stereotyping that surrounds poverty which is both unhelpful and unfair. I’m pleased to see that some of those organisations best placed to help change these perceptions -  including local media, Voluntary Sector partners and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation - will be championing this with us.”

Julia Unwin CBE, Chief Executive, Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “The nature of poverty is changing. For the first time, there are now over six million families who are in work but also in poverty. This outstrips families who are not in work by one million.

“Our founder, Joseph Rowntree said that if there is poverty in York, then there is poverty everywhere. Too many of our fellow citizens, in York and in other cities, are trapped in poorly paid, temporary jobs unable to afford decent housing and increasingly unable to afford essentials such as fuel, food and childcare. This is against a backdrop of mounting debt. Recognising these challenges and committing to meet them head on as a city is a huge step towards making a tangible difference to the lives of people in York.”

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