Deena Tissera: £500,000 in city council cash reserves must be used to help starving people in crisis
Aberdeen is facing a public health emergency over food poverty. I know… I’ve seen it for myself.
Street Friends volunteers support the vulnerable and homeless people of Aberdeen (Photo: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson)
Volunteering with city centre outreach group Street Friends has allowed me to experience first-hand the abject misery which is the brutal reality for those at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis.
I met one elderly couple who were accessing Street Friends support for the first time. They were coming up on their 40th wedding anniversary. Completely disenfranchised, disempowered and isolated, they didn’t know where else to turn.
A sandwich, a cup of tea and a little conversation seemed to make all the difference. But, as they walked away, I wondered how long they would remain trapped in this vicious cycle against which being employed or receiving your pension is now no defence.
I believe we need an urgent political intervention.
Deena Tissera on a visit to an Aberdeen foodbank
Each week, dozens of families are being plunged into poverty through no fault of their own.
Visiting foodbanks throughout the city, community leaders have told me of the tough choices they have to make, as demand outstrips donations. As thousands rely on weekly food parcels, there is increasingly less and less support available. Receiving fewer donations, foodbanks are having to dip into their rainy-day funds just to keep services afloat.
Can you think of a better use of public funds?
This week, I tabled a motion calling on Aberdeen City Council to release £500,000 of emergency funding specifically to deal with this crisis.
One in five working families are running out of money a full week before pay day
All local governments are under financial pressure. But, in Aberdeen, we have £35 million in the Common Good Fund, £20 million in cash reserves and, reportedly, an underspend from last year of more than £1 million.
Can you think of a better use of our public funds at this moment in time? If you doubt it, spend an hour with a Street Friends volunteer or in a foodbank like the one I visited at Northfield Community Centre, and it will become immediately apparent why we need this now.
The foodbank at Froghall Community Centre in Aberdeen (Photo: Ben Hendry)
A recent report from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau revealed that one in five working families are running out of money a full week before pay day. With the price of our weekly supermarket shops rising, along with increasing fuel poverty, this crisis isn’t going away any time soon.
We need immediate action, where the usual bureaucratic processes are accelerated, and these funds are released to those living this nightmare, whether as service users or volunteers who struggle daily to keep pace with demand.
Let’s hope those with their hands on the levers of power feel this is a cause worth fighting for.
Deena Tissera is Labour councillor for Aberdeen’s Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill, and a public health expert