A PLAN to tackle poverty in County Durham has taken a step forward with the approval of council leaders.

Durham County Council's poverty strategy and action plan was presented to the cabinet this week.

Its "mission" is to work together so fewer people will be affected by poverty and deprivation.

Paul Darby, the council's director of resources, said the new plan built on efforts to support people in crisis.

He said: "The updated poverty strategy and action plan not only seeks to focus on maintaining support and ensuring there's effective safety nets and crisis responses in place, but also focuses on the roots out of poverty."

He said a poverty action steering group developed the plan through workshops and suggested a series of further consultations and events.

An finalised strategy and action plan will be brought back to cabinet later this year for formal sign-off.

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Councillor Alan Shield, cabinet member for equality and inclusion, said: "Poverty is a complex issue.

"It manifests itself in many ways, and its causes and impacts are multi-faceted. It blights and holds back many of our communities right across the county.

"Ultimately the route out of poverty lies in access to more and better paid jobs, which is why our economic strategy and the provision of education, skills and training opportunities are so vitally important.

"As is additional connectivity in the modern world plus a connected transport infrastructure.

"If we are to achieve what we aspire as a council, our challenge is to raise aspirations and provide opportunities for all.

"And we must work in partnership to achieve this as we cannot do it alone.

"We must also make sure that we have a strong safety net of support in place to support those financially vulnerable households, particularly those in crisis situations."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Alan Shield. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Alan Shield. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

He said the plan set out objectives to use intelligence and gather data to support low-income households, reduce financial pressures and barriers, promote social inclusion, increase resilience and allow people to access services.

Cllr Shield said: "We can be proud of the various schemes that Durham County Council have in place to date.

"These schemes have helped thousands and thousands of the most disadvantaged and financially vulnerable households right across the county, and we will continue to provide that safety net."

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He said the Government was providing additional household support funding, with Durham's share £4.676m, two-thirds of which would go to famillies and pensioners.

Cllr Shield said the council would consult more widely: "We will listen and carefully reflect on this feedback in finalising the strategy and action plan.

"We will not, however, pause anything. And I will continue to work... to ensure residents, particularly those in crisis, continue to receive the support they need at this time."

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Cllr John Shuttleworth, cabinet member for rural communities and highways, said: "We recognise that many households across the county are facing a cost of living crisis compounded by high inflation and particularly increased energy costs.

"And of course National Insurance goes up another 1.25 per cent today.

"Whilst we can be proud that we have such a strong safety net of support in place to support financially vulnerable households, there's always more than can be done.

"However to effectively tackle this agenda we need to work with our partners to coordinate our efforts."

The Northern Echo: Cllr John Shuttleworth. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr John Shuttleworth. Picture: Northern Echo.

He said of the plan: "I believe that it focuses on the right things and strikes the right balance between ensuring we have crisis support in place but also focuses on the long-term solutions and routes out of poverty.

"We will need to reflect on the feedback we receive and update the action plan accordingly.

"We will implement the actions in this report now."


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