STAN Esson is on the frontline of Barrhead’s war against poverty.

As warehouse manager at East Renfrewshire Foodbank, he knows only too well the difficulties being faced by families who are struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why, for Mr Esson, a report in last week’s Barrhead News about “horrific” levels of child poverty in the area came as no great surprise.

We told how one in three kids in Barrhead is caught in the poverty trap – more than 10 per cent higher than anywhere else in East Renfrewshire.

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Sadly, Mr Esson has seen no signs that the problem will get better anytime soon.
He told the Barrhead News: “We are noticing there are more families coming to the foodbank now.

“How these statistics about the number of children living in poverty are put together, I have no idea – but I do know that our foodbank is getting busier.

“We would like to see a situation where no-one needs to come to a foodbank – that would be the ideal situation.

“When we started this service six years ago, we never dreamed we would still be doing it now, let alone the demand being higher than before.

“We don’t know where things will go from here but I don’t see the situation getting better.”

As revealed by the Barrhead News last week, a report considered by East Renfrewshire Council and submitted to the Scottish Government has lifted the lid on the ‘have and have not’ nature of communities in the local area.

While child poverty levels in Barrhead stand at 30 per cent, the figure drops to 18 per cent for Neilston, Uplawmoor and Newton Mearns North.

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The lowest level can be found in Netherlee, Stamperland and Williamwood, where the figure is six per cent.

Councillor Angela Convery, who represents Barrhead, Liboside and Uplawmoor, is among those who have called for urgent action to address the issue of inequality.

“It concerns me greatly to see my ward still has the highest rates of poverty in East Renfrewshire,” she said.

“Barrhead has been known as East Renfrewshire’s poor cousin for long enough.”

The report also found that the average weekly, full-time wage in East Renfrewshire as a whole is £744, which is the highest in Scotland – reinforcing concerns that, while much of the local authority area is affluent, not enough is being done to eradicate pockets of poverty.

East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton wants to see more investment in the poorer parts of his constituency.

He said: “Barrhead is a fantastic community, with a huge amount going for it, but there are pockets of real deprivation and areas which have suffered from a chronic lack of investment by the council and the Scottish Government.

“There are a range of factors which contribute to the complex picture of poverty, including family breakdown and addiction.

“Statistics like these – which say that, if a person with kids is earning under £18,900, that family must be living in poverty because that’s 60 per cent of median income – simply don’t give you the full picture. They produce perverse outcomes, such as child poverty reducing in a recession because average earnings across the UK drop, but there is no question too many people are struggling to get by.

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“At a UK level, we need to ensure work continues to be the best route out of poverty and unemployment continues to sit at record lows. We’re also taking steps to help with the cost of living, such as the energy price cap, but many of the levers that help to alleviate poverty, such as affordable housing, access to public services and education, lie at the door of the Scottish Government.

“Cuts to council budgets have had a major impact on communities like Barrhead – and, to help tackle poverty at a local level, the Scottish Government need to start giving the area it’s fair share.

“We also need the SNP to prioritise those who need it with targeted support, instead of wasting money on vanity projects and constitutional grievance.”

In the meantime, Mr Esson is encouraging local people to continue to support East Renfrewshire Foodbank.

He said: “The public have been absolutely brilliant with us, in terms of the amount of donations we get.

“We have boxes in Tesco, Waitrose and Asda, plus schools and churches have been excellent, bringing regular donations to us.

“We are always grateful for any donations we get.”