Working to tackle poverty across County Durham
An updated action plan to help tackle poverty and support those struggling with the current
economic climate will be discussed next week.
Durham County Council’s Cabinet will be presented with a revised County Durham
Poverty Strategy and Action Plan, to respond to the impact of poverty on residents.
Following a meeting in April, councillors consulted with partners and key voluntary sector
organisations to develop an action plan which clearly sets out what will be done to address
and reduce poverty across the county.
The strategy proposes four key objectives to reduce the number of people affected by
poverty and deprivation. This includes reducing financial pressures on those facing or in
poverty, increasing individual and community resilience to poverty, using data to target
support to low-income households and reducing barriers to accessing services.
The report recognises that the council’s new Inclusive Economic Strategy is fundamental
to opening up routes out of poverty and supporting communities to thrive by maximising
money going into local communities, creating jobs and supporting businesses to grow.
Because of the impact of the rising cost of living and current economic uncertainty, the
action plan also reflects the need to support residents experiencing immediate financial
hardship through crisis support and access to appropriate advice, as well as developing
longer term strategies to enable households to have a good quality of life.
Last month, the council agreed to extend its Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for
another year to help low-income households, with 80 per cent of all 34,000 eligible
households receiving 100 per cent support and having no bill to pay. The council also
continues to fund the Welfare Assistance Scheme which provides support for those in
Cllr Alan Shield, Cabinet member for equality and inclusion, said: “We understand that
many residents across County Durham are affected by poverty. The effects of it are at the
heart of many of the social and economic challenges we face, having a profound impact
on so many people and presenting itself in many ways.
“The effects of poverty are widespread and cause significant inequalities across our
communities and we are mindful that the cost of living crisis is leading to more residents
experiencing poverty for the first time. What is clear is that it holds back many of our
communities right across the county, and we are determined to do all we can to support all
“However, a joint approach is required to truly tackle this complex issue and ensure people
in crisis are provided with advice and financial assistance as well as a route out of poverty.
This is why it is so important that, alongside our partners, we work to ensure help is
available for all those who are struggling.
“We are extending our Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for a further year, working
with the County Durham Community Foundation to create a network of Warm Spaces, as
well as providing funding to support the Durham Christian Partnership and other local food
banks. We are also supplementing that service by working alongside our partner agencies
offering benefit checks and other support to maximise household income, and many other
means of support.”
The revised strategy aims to improve services and opportunities for residents experiencing
poverty because of the rising cost of living and will cover a four-year period up to 2026.
It considers how the council can increase access to fresh, healthy, affordable food and
how it can help residents improve their overall financial circumstances by prioritising
longer-term support around debt, mental health and affordable housing.
As child poverty in County Durham also continues to rise, with more children now eligible
for free schools meals, the council’s Child Poverty Working Group (CPWG) has refreshed
its plan to ensure children, young people and their families have the resources to meet
their basic needs.
Revised objectives for the CPWG will be to understand the level and impact of poverty on
children in order to better target support and resources and to identify and support affected
children and families at the earliest opportunity. Other objectives include promoting social
inclusion and raising aspirations and resilience of children and young people making the
move into further education, training or employment.
Cllr Ted Henderson, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “The
updated Child Poverty Plan will build on the success of our existing initiatives, such as our
Fun with Food programme, which offers free activities alongside healthy food during
“By focusing on how we can meet the changing needs of families across the county, we
can support more children, young people and families at an earlier opportunity. This will
help us to identify those who are most in need and create better outcomes for families.”
Cabinet is recommended to approve the new Poverty Strategy and Action Plan and
endorse the Child Poverty Action Plan when it meets on Wednesday 16 November.