Council moves to tackle rural poverty
PUBLIC transport costs in rural Fife are making it more difficult for unemployed people to access job opportunities, new research has highlighted.
As part of Fife Council’s commitment to a fairer Fife, the research was commissioned by the North East Fife Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty Group to look at how living in a rural area can have a huge impact on those living in poverty.
Now further work will be done with a volunteer group to gauge how access to free public transport will make a difference to their lives.
And it’s also planned to work with Stagecoach on better promotion of a national concessionary scheme for those who are unemployed for 13 weeks or more, operated by the Department of Work and Pensions, (DWP). There is currently a low uptake of this scheme which gives a 50 % reduction on bus fares.
Community Manager for North East Fife Janice Laird explained: “Rural poverty is a real concern in this area. Several factors contribute to higher living costs here, including a shortage of affordable housing, older homes with higher fuel costs, expensive food with less access to discount supermarkets and the availability and costs of public transport.
“For all of these reasons we are working with partners on a rural poverty action plan to highlight and tackle these issues.”
Feedback from those who took part in the recent research is that the cost of travelling by bus is having a negative impact on their lives, particularly for those living in the East Neuk area and villages outside Cupar and St Andrews.
There were also examples where the cost of travel had resulted in people having to reduce their travel journeys which compromised their opportunities to seek employment, attend health appointments and see family and friends.
Travel costs were a barrier for many accessing budget supermarkets and in several cases, had led to a reliance on foodbanks and friends.
Difficulties for unemployed people were also highlighted with one participant explaining that it costs £3.50 to get to Anstruther for the job club as well as £8.20 to get to Leven to sign on. “It’s a lot of money and you can’t claim it back.” A single person under the age of 25 gets £251 per month Universal Credit.
Chair of the council’s NE Fife Area Committee Donald Lothian added: “It’s appropriate that we’re highlighting these issues during “Challenge Poverty Week” when there is a spotlight on the work organisations are doing to tackle poverty across the country.
“Our aim as a council is putting fairness at the heart of everything we do by bringing together Fife’s communities, services and businesses to fight poverty and inequality.
“Working together with our partners we will continue to gather evidence to help us better understand the nature and extent of poverty in North East Fife and make a positive difference to people’s lives.”