Linda Craik, End Poverty Edinburgh
Linda Craik is a member of End Poverty Edinburgh, an independent group of citizens supported by the Poverty Alliance to raise awareness of poverty in Edinburgh, influence decision making and hold the city to account. She addressed the First Minister's anti-poverty summit on 3 May 2023.
Listen to Heather Pugh from End Poverty Edinburgh speaking about the poverty summit on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme.
Thank you for the kind invitation to be part of this summit and for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.
My name is Linda Craik and I am a member of End Poverty Edinburgh. For those of you who are not familiar with End Poverty Edinburgh - hopefully you soon will be!
Unfortunately, over the last few years, the word “Poverty” has become the “norm” because so many more people are struggling financially. The current “cost of living crisis” is headline news now – but a cost-of-living crisis has been the normal state of affairs for a very long time for many people who have been, and continue to be, trapped in the poverty cycle!
Poverty is a word which makes many people feel “uncomfortable”, so if you prefer you can think of it as “living in a state of permanent financial distress!” I pinched that from a quote by a politician in a newspaper article!
To understand what POVERTY really is, you firstly have to think about the causes. People don’t “choose” to live in poverty, it’s not a lifestyle choice, and many find themselves in this situation, or on the verge of it, through absolutely no fault of their own.
To assist them in the work they were doing, The Poverty Alliance were looking for “real people” with “real knowledge and experience of living in Poverty” and wanted to include the voice of Carers and that is how I became involved in the End Poverty Edinburgh Group.
End Poverty Edinburgh have banded together to influence decision making and to hold the city to account. We do this through our three key aims which are:
- Engaging with the Council, the Edinburgh Partnership and others, from the outset to share our wealth of experience.
- Holding those who have the power to account by influencing decision-making and providing advice and guidance.
- Working with other groups and organisations working to tackle poverty in the city to lend our support and share experiences.
- Personally, I would like to add a fourth key aim and that would be to remove the stigma that the word “poverty” conjures up in people’s minds.
The Poverty Alliance found us, brought us all together and made us into the Group we are today!
The current “cost of living crisis” is headline news now – but a cost-of-living crisis has been the normal state of affairs for a very long time for many people who have been, and continue to be, trapped in the poverty cycle!
Why Central and Local Government bodies didn’t think of doing this before is a question I’m not sure we will ever know the answer to! But it was very much a missed opportunity on their part!
Today I am going to share with you the challenges that I, as an unpaid carer, have personally faced. This most definitely is not an invitation to a pity party, just a factual account of how difficult things have been – and continue to be. Unfortunately, my story is not unique – hundreds, if not thousands, of others have faced similar difficulties.
On the 2 May 2016 ,my mum passed away. So exactly 7 years ago today, I became full-time carer for my brother who has a variety of physical disabilities and additional learning needs. I lost my mum, I had to give up work which meant I had to sell my house because I didn’t have an income to pay the mortgage – and also DWP viewed my house as “an asset” and you don’t get any help if you have any assets! So, I had no choice but to sell my house and I was then basically told to come back to them when the money from the sale of my house had run out! During this period, I was also diagnosed with Lupus. But still it took me another 2 and a half years to admit I was struggling – I might not have had much money, but I did still have a bit of self-respect and dignity.
my story is not unique – hundreds, if not thousands, of others have faced similar difficulties.
Getting recognised as a carer is not a straight forward process and as for accessing any financial guidance and support….. I can honestly say that that was the most bewildering, stressful, repetitive, soul destroying, degrading process, and that was just to simply get the advice and assistance I needed.
I’d like to say that things have gotten better or easier, but I’d be lying. 3 years ago, my father was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s so I am now his sole carer as well… and so the process begun again!!!
For those that have the capacity, the stamina, the determination and the time to jump through the numerous hoops to try to access the financial assistance that is meant to be available, they might be “awarded” what the Government deems the minimum amount a person or family needs to live on.
I use the term “awarded” as this is what is says on the letters which you receive from DWP and other Agencies. As a carer, my “award” is £76.75 per week – which is equivalent to just under 46 pence per hour for the role which I carry out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
One of the major barriers I faced was knowing where to start to get help - so the need for “Awareness Raising” must be given priority. There is no point in having services if people don’t know how to access them and please remember that not everyone has access to the Internet or the ability to use it!
At home I have a filing cabinet full of letters, application forms, medical reports etc – life is just a never-ending cycle of justifying the existence of myself, my brother and my father.
Perhaps now is the time to mention that I didn’t fall into the category of one of the sections of people who doesn’t have the capacity or the skills to use the Internet etc. Before becoming a carer, I was a Civil Servant working in the Scottish Government for nearly 28 years! If anyone should have had the skills to navigate the systems, it should have been me – but it proved a challenge too far, too often.
I can only thank the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Vocal and Martin Lewis’s Moneysaving website for the help they gave me!
We firmly believe that “prevention” is better than “cure” so it is imperative that actions are taken to ensure that appropriate (and accessible!) advice and guidance is available to anyone who needs it and that those who might be on the verge of entering the poverty cycle are aware of the help that might be available to them.
we do hope that you will create a true, cross-party plan to tackle all the aspects of poverty in our country.
We may be a small group with big ambitions, but we were, and still are, determined to make our voices heard and we believe that by working WITH those that hold the power and the purse strings, we can make a difference.
We’re not naive, we know that there isn’t a bottomless pit of money for the Scottish Government to throw at this issue, but we do hope that you will create a true, cross-party plan to tackle all the aspects of poverty in our country.
Poverty isn’t just about money – it’s about having decent homes to live in, jobs that pay a living wage, health, schooling, transport, looking after our elderly and disabled citizens etc so Poverty should and MUST be included in every Cabinet Secretary’s Portfolio! Words and commitments on paper are all very well but what is really needed are actions with tangible outcomes.
End Poverty Edinburgh, with our collective knowledge and experiences, should be viewed as a valuable (and free!) resource – so let us help you to shape the future policies that are desperately needed to end poverty in this country.