Monday October 7th 2019
Written by Local Democracy Reporter, David Bol
Edinburgh city leaders are investigating giving out free bus passes to people on low incomes in a bid to support 80,000 Capital residents who are living in poverty.
The Edinburgh Poverty Commission is half-way through an investigation into the causes of poverty in the Capital and will make recommendations as to how the situation can be addressed. The commission has already heard from and visited more than 50 organisations across the city and commissioned new research.
The commission, chaired by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s associate director for Scotland, Dr Jim McCormick, has now published interim findings and solutions, including attempting to make transport costs more affordable in the Capital.
The council’s depute leader, Councillor Cammy Day, is vice-chairman of the commission.
He said: “What is key for all of us is that we have the voices of real people who experience poverty. We have had people in Muirhouse who are living on the breadline come and talk to us about their experiences of poverty- who in front of 11 or 12 people, break down in tears because they have to make conscious decision every week whether they feed themselves or they feed their children.
“If you can’t afford to live in Edinburgh, you move to Fife or to Livingstone and then the costs of you getting to work hugely increase. We have not got the best train service in the country or the cheapest. Transport costs are a real issue.”
He added: “We need to talk to the city about the fact that we subsidise a few million pounds worth of bus routes in the city. They may not be well used or they are in rural locations so we have to subsidise them.
“We have started a discussion internally about is that the right thing to do or should we be looking at subsidising a different community of people who need that help more. It’s not quite a commission recommendation yet but it’s a discussion the council administration are having about how do you make transport more accessible, given we have got the best bus company in the UK.
“For the first time since I have been here, we are now looking at budget proposals through a poverty lens and do these decisions impact on poverty or do we need to make harder decisions for these 80,000 people in the city and one in four kids that live in poverty.”
It is estimated that around £400m a year is spent on services to support people who experience poverty in Edinburgh.
The interim solution from the Capital’s poverty commission says that “Edinburgh should ensure place based investment and development removes the need for costly travel to access services and support”. It adds that “availability of free transport should be the norm for services targeted at people experiencing poverty”.
Dr McCormick added: “There are various schemes and pots of money that do seem to offer free travel for certain groups of the population. But what is crystal clear is this patchwork of support is very hard to navigate and people often don’t know what they are entitled to.
“Getting from where we are now to some kind of guarantee for groups of the population around transport probably isn’t as big a sum of money as it might first appear but it certainly is a very big coordination job. It’s a nigh-on impossible task currently for everyone to know what they are entitled to and to claim it. That is a situation that has to change.”
For more information or to submit evidence to the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, visit edinburghpovertycommission.org.uk/get-involved/Tweet Share on Facebook