The new strategy takes a refreshed approach to the changing challenges caused by lack of sufficient income, with the council's Anti-poverty service continuing to work with partners across the council and others including Department of Work and Pensions, Social Security Scotland, local credit unions and West Lothian Food Network to help those most at risk.
The conference held at Howden Park Centre in Livingston during Challenge Poverty Week 2023 attracted delegates from a wide range of council services and other public and third sector partner organisations, providing an opportunity for networking and discussion about important issues relating to poverty in West Lothian.
Speakers included the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit, the Trussell Trust and Bonnie, a young woman with lived experience of poverty to tell her own story.
Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in workshops relating to cost of living support, employability services and poverty awareness training, 100% of delegates that attended the workshops rated them as good or excellent.
The 'Better Off West Lothian Tackling Poverty Strategy 2023-2028' is available to view on the West Lothian Council website: https://www.westlothian.gov.uk/anti-poverty
Chair of the West Lothian Community Planning Partnership Board and Depute Leader of West Lothian Council Kirsteen Sullivan was one of the guest speakers at the conference.
Cllr Sullivan said: "The council's Anti-Poverty Service has been working with local partners to try and positively impact the lives of people in poverty. Through the previous strategy they have succeeded in helping many people in need and I would like to commend everyone involved for their work to date.
"I was delighted to speak at the Tackling Poverty Conference where the new five-year strategy was launched. The new strategy sets out an updated vision on how the Community Planning Partnership aims to address poverty at a local level with all agencies using all the powers at their disposal.
"The Advice Shop sits within the Anti-Poverty Service and is a free, impartial and confidential service to help the people of West Lothian with a focus to alleviate poverty and to promote inclusion and equality through advice, assistance and advocacy. I would urge anyone who is worried about their finances to please get in touch with the council's Advice Shop service today."
The Advice Shop has recently obtained accreditation under the Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers for the next 3 years.
This means the Advice Shop is the only service in West Lothian that is accredited to a national standard to provide type 3 money & debt advice whilst also obtaining type 2 & 3 accreditation in Housing and Welfare Benefits. Information about the standards can be found at https://www.slab.org.uk/advice-agencies/scottish-national-standards-for-information-and-advice-partners/
The team is on hand to provide support to anyone in need. So far in 2023/24 the Advice Shop has supported nearly 8,000 individual customers resulting in over 61,000 separate enquiries. The service has maximised income by £11 million in extra benefits and managed £3.5 million of debt for customers during this period.
Further information about the service and access to appointments can be found on the West Lothian Council website - https://www.westlothian.gov.uk/adviceshop