The council has reported progress on dealing with poverty in the city and the council’s ambition to end poverty by 2030.

Latest data shows that around 78,900 people in Edinburgh live in poverty after housing costs which includes 16,100 children.

The Edinburgh Poverty Commission issued its final report a year ago concluding that poverty is real and damaging but not inevitable. The commission set seven calls to action and the council included the commitment to end poverty in its business plan approved earlier in the year.

Last year’s report marked the end of the work of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission and the start of a movement which will work to create an Edinburgh without poverty. As a legacy, Commissioners helped to develop End Poverty Edinburgh – a new independent group of residents with first-hand experience of living on a low income and their allies who want to be part of shaping the solutions. 

With the support of the Poverty Alliance, End Poverty Edinburgh has been meeting regularly throughout 2021 and aim to raise awareness of poverty in Edinburgh, influence decision-making and hold the city to account. On Tuesday the Policy and Sustainability Committee considered the latest report.

Councillor Cammy Day, Depute Chair of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission and Depute Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Whilst there has been positive progress made in the first year since the Commission’s call to action no one is underestimating the scale of the challenge we face. Tackling poverty is one of our key priorities as a Council and our 2030 target is ambitious but one I’m convinced can be achieved.

“There’s no doubting the enormous impact the pandemic has had on families in this city especially those on the lowest incomes. However our work to limit this impact has seen 44,000 crisis and community care grants issued, over 8,000 free school meal payments and an action group of employers set up to make Edinburgh a living wage city to help lift 40,000 city workers out of low pay.

“We are one year into a long and difficult journey, but if all our partners, communities and residents work together, along with support from the UK and Scottish Governments, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a real difference to those most in need.”

Council Leader Adam McVey said: “As a city, we’re trying to eradicate poverty by the end of the decade and we’re the first local authority in the UK to set such a target. Tackling poverty and inequality in our city drives the choices we are making as a Council such as our new business plan which has ending poverty by 2030 as one of its three core priorities.

“Additional investment is also required and this Spring we agreed a budget package of £2.5m specifically targeted at poverty. This is expanding our money advice and income maximisation services, providing new resources to help those at risk of homelessness, increasing our Discover! programme to help families reduce and prevent food and financial insecurity and the relaunch of the Edinburgh Guarantee to help people of all ages into work or learning. Last year we spent or administered over £100m in core anti-poverty measures to support our citizens.

“We have made an encouraging start but these are just the first steps and it’s critical the positive work of the past year continues. This isn’t something the Council can achieve in isolation, however, and we need a Team Edinburgh effort and Governments supporting our efforts through housing and welfare policies if we’re going to succeed in meeting the call to action the Commission has set for us all to end poverty in Edinburgh.” 

The annual progress report outlines key actions already delivered this year including:

  • Over 44,000 crisis and community care grants delivered in the past year (more than double the previous year) alongside 8,800 Free School Meal payments and 8,300 School Uniform Grant payments (a 50% increase in take up). In addition, led by the third sector, partners across the city provided 45,864 meals as food parcels and 3,654 pre-prepared meals during the first half of 2021 alone for people in food crisis
  • Investment in advice and income maximisation services across the city. Council and third sector work in this area has secured a total of £22m of financial gains for Edinburgh citizens through improved access to entitlements and reduced costs
  • Expansion of the successful the Discover! programme to help 671 families and 1,346 children with support to reduce and prevent food and financial insecurity, doubling the number of families supported this year
  • Delivering £41.5m of Council investment in building new homes and through partnership working, reducing the number of people sleeping rough in Edinburgh to 10 or less on any given night, down from 80-120 before the pandemic
  • Supporting 3,800 people in Edinburgh through Council funded employability programmes
  • Committing to pay all Council staff the Scottish Local Government Living Wage, changing the pay structure so that 4,400 employees in grades 1 to 3 received a pay uplift
Edinburgh City Chambers. Photo: Martin P. McAdam