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SCOTLAND’S SOCIAL SECURITY minister has accepted an invitation to address the Building a Fairer Moray Conference next month.
Jeane Freeman MSP has accepted an invitation from local MSP Richard Lochhead, who is chairing the conference aimed at raising awareness of poverty in Moray.
Organised by the Fairer Moray Forum, the conference will also consider what needs to be done to improve individual circumstances in the region.
Moray’s MSP said: “The Building a Fairer Moray Conference will add to the recent focus and attention being given to issues around poverty in Moray and will undoubtedly shine a light on some of the root causes of poverty in our local communities.
“For too long, poverty in Moray is something that has largely gone unseen but the reality is that many households and individuals in our communities are struggling with real financial hardship, with the number of referrals to the foodbank increasing and people on low incomes simply finding it difficult to get by.
“It shouldn’t be acceptable to any of us to know that people in our communities, our friends and neighbours, are living in poverty and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to tackle poverty in Moray.
“The Fairer Moray Forum is relatively new and is engaging with the public sector and key local organisations to better understand the challenges we face locally.
“It is good news that the Minister for Social Security has agreed to be part of the conference and will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from across Moray to learn more about local circumstances.”
Kathy Ross, who is Chair of Moray Foodbank, added: “I am delighted that Ms Freeman has agreed to talk at the conference, which is the culmination of our work as a foodbank in drawing together the Fairer Moray Forum to raise awareness of Moray’s unique issues and characteristics and develop a ‘Snapshot of Poverty in Moray.’
“Hopefully, though, it is the start of a new phase of the group working together with our Community Planning Partners to tackle the issues being identified.
“The impact of welfare reform is clear to us and it will be good to discuss with the minister how the new Scottish Social Security system can mitigate against the significant hardship caused by Universal Credit, which rolls out in Moray in June.
“It will also be important to hear how the new system will accommodate a dignified approach and how we can all help change the narrative around people who have to use the social security system, as we are well aware of the stigma and shame people still feel about claiming benefits or having to resort to foodbank use.”