The head of Dundee’s Fairness Commission has said her group is “where we want to be” as it embarks on the final stage of its mission to tackle poverty and deprivation in the city.
Jacky Close, the commission’s lead co-ordinator, was speaking as she and her colleagues prepared to spend the next few months meeting people and families struggling to get by.
All 24 commissioners will be visiting community centres and various support groups in the city, before publishing a final report on its findings in November.
The commission’s findings will then be presented to Aileen Campbell, the newly-installed communities and local government minister, the following month.
Ms Close said: “I’m really excited about the work the commission is doing and about the next stage.
“We are getting to where we want to be and I firmly believe that we will be able to help people throughout the city who face difficulties on a day-to-day basis.”
Despite the report still being six months away, the commission can already claim to have had some tangible success.
Last week, Dundee City Council announced it would scrap child burial fees – the most expensive in Scotland – following recommendations made by the commission.
“It has been an obvious early success for us,” Ms Close said.
“We are delighted that burial fees for children have finally been scrapped.
“It was very obvious to us that this would go a long way to helping city families financially during a very difficult time for them.”
The commission consists of 12 people with personal experience of poverty, alongside 12 people with professional experience, including partners in the public, voluntary, community, private and academic sectors.
The two distinct groups have been meeting since late last year, developing shared proposals and identifying issues to work on together.
Ms Close said: “We are now in a position to work towards what the Fairness Commission set out to achieve in the first place.
“The 24 commissioners have been sharing their experiences, and working together to figure out how to address these problems.
“The next six months are going to be very busy.
“We will now be getting out and about in Dundee speaking to members of the public.
“We will also be seeking a meeting with cross-party councillors in October to get their responses to our findings up to that point.”
The commission has previously announced the three key issues it would focus on – mental health, money and stigma. These topics will form the basis of conversations.
“We will be thinking about how and where people will be able to access services and how they are treated when they access services,” Ms Close said.
“We will meet with people who are accessing the services to try to understand how they feel they are treated when asking for help. We will also be talking to front line service staff to learn about stigma from their side of the situation.
“We also want to meet with those who face mental health and money concerns.
“Mental health can result in people finding it difficult to keep appointments, find jobs and manage their finances. We can help with all of that.”