Living in Castlemilk - Research Findings

DescriptionThis research sought residents' views on aspects of life in Castlemilk, and perspectives from some of the main organisations and agencies providing services in the area.
ISBN
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Environment Research Programme Research Findings No. 4
Living in Castlemilk

ANNE CORDEN and MHAIRI MACKENZIE with CLAIRE NORRIS

Publisher The Scottish Officeprice £5.00
Research commissioned by The Scottish Office in 1993 to study poverty in Castlemilk aimed to provide information of practical use to the Castlemilk Partnership in developing an anti-poverty strategy. The research sought residents' views on aspects of life in Castlemilk, and perspectives from some of the main organisations and agencies providing services. Findings suggested key areas where there might be opportunities for strategic intervention at the Partnership level.
Main Findings: Key Areas for Possible Action
  • maximising low incomes by increasing take-up of unclaimed social security entitlements, in particular benefits available to disabled people, people with chronic ill-health and those who care for such people in the community;
  • promoting a Castlemilk-wide focus on fuel use, heating efficiency, methods of payment and management of fuel debt, from which should emerge feasible and appropriate directions for action to combat fuel poverty;
  • initiating a cross-sector response to the need in Castlemilk for increased, affordable, high quality, child-care facilities;
  • continued commitment to the increased provision of general retail and commercial facilities in Castlemilk;
  • consideration of the implications for Castlemilk of the level of drug/alcohol abuse, and how measures to help tackle this problem might be adopted in an anti-poverty strategy;
  • prioritising the special needs of disabled people throughout the above programme.
Poverty: The Partnership Approach
Castlemilk is a peripheral housing estate in Glasgow, built in the 1950s. Economic and physcial decline during the 1970s has led to an accumulation of social problems, and Castlemilk was one of 4 multi-agency Partnership areas chosen for priority assistance as part of the 'New Life for Urban Scotland' programme.
Poverty has always been one of the fundamental issues for the agenda of the Castlemilk Partnership. The approach adopted has been a broad and multi-dimensional interpretation of poverty, which points to the unsatisfactory living experiences of people excluded, as a result of inadequate income, from living conditions, amenities and activities generally approved by today's society.
This approach to poverty meant that it was essential to seek the views of residents themselves. Another way of understanding the range and significance of different kinds of need in a local area is to look at the development of service provision. The research thus comprised 2 elements:
  • analysis of community experience
  • analysis of service provision
The Residents' Views
Residents' views were sought by means of 9 group discussions with participants from key groups, including parents, young people, unemployed people, please over retirement age and single women. Thirty-three people shared their views and described experiences of living in Castlemilk on restricted incomes. Their views must not be generalised as representative of all residents in Castlemilk, but provide valuable insights into how people manage on low incomes.
Discussion ranged across areas of priority concern including: accommodation, opportunities for employment, education and training; sources of income and practical budgeting strategies; and general facilities in Castlemilk.
Everybody welcomed the on-going improvement in housing stock, but for those who still lived in structurally inadequate homes, dampness and cold/draughty rooms were major problems. Increased fuel consumption, recurrent expense of redecoration, and replacement of bedding and curtains spoiled by dampness were a further drain on restricted incomes.
Overcrowding, especially in families with children, put strains of family life, and lack of a private garden or safe, accessible place to play outside made overcrowding even harder to manage. A source of great dissatisfaction was the intrusion and nuisance of alcoholism in public places. People avoided going to shops and the library because they felt ashamed and personally threatened by the drinkers in the shopping centre.
Few participants currently had paid work, but lack of accessible, good quality, child care at reasonable charges was thought to be a major obstacle here. Lone parents and women in 2-parent families had to let pass opportunities of work, training, and education courses.
Social security provision was essential to most families participating, but there was confusion and misunderstanding about some of the main disability benefits and benefits for carers. There was a mjor financial impact on families with a 16-17 year old member with no financial support (non-participant in YTS, not registred for work or training). Some young people said resulting financial strains had then led to their being asked to leave home, when they effictively became homeless.
Household budgeting on low incomes was made even harder by the lack of choice and poor quality of goods and products available in Castlemilk. Where there was no retain competition, praices rocketed. Difficulty of access to goods was, for some, an unwelcome pressure towards using consumer credit arrangements. For those able to go outside Castlemilk for cheaper, better quality, goods there were travelling expenses and constraints of time and inconvenience.
It was not unusual to have heavy credit commitments, and social fund loans were an integral part of budgeting for some families. There was general agreements that it was easy to get into debt in Castlemilk.
Service Provision
Four key statutory organisations and ten independent agencies supplied data and information for an analysis of service provision for Castlemilk residents. Representatives from each agency took part in research interviews, and provided descriptive material, annual reports, and statistics about their work. Those participating included representatives from:

Benefits Agency (Rutherglen office)

Housing Department (Glasgow District Council)

Social Work Department (Strathclyde Regional Council)

Castlemilk Job Centre

Castlemilk Credit Union

Castlemilk Food Co-op Project

Castlemilk Housing and Energy Advice Centre (CHEAP)

Castlemilk Law Centre

Castlemilk Money Advice Centre

Castlemilk Citizens Advice Bureau

Healthy Castlemilk

Safe Castlemilk

Second Opportunities (furniture and recycling project)

Representatives from the statutory organisations described the effects of poverty on aspects of their clients' lives. Tackling poverty directly, or working to prevent poverty arising was only part of their general work, however. The independent agencies included some which had emerged in direct response to residents' needs, to plug gaps in statutory welfare provision and to address residents' needs in relation to statutory bodies.
The range and provision of services by the independent agencies can be summarised as follows:
  • provision of information, in respect of Castlemilk residents' rights, opportunities and responsibilities.
  • provision of specialist advice, in respect of legal needs, money advice and debt counselling, and seeking employment.
  • mobilising resources for household requirements such as food and furniture.
  • empowering Castlemilk residents to influence decisions made on their behalf.
The independent agencies felt they were working together to help tackle poverty as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, alongisde the statutory service providers. They were all committed to encouraging input and participation by Castlemilk residents in managing the agencies, and setting priorities. A responsive client-led mode of operation could be an advantage. At the same time, extensive contacts and participation in a wider anti-poverty network were valuable resources for Castlemilk.
One of their main concerns was their short-term funding. Seven of the 10 independent agencies had Urban Programme funding and could face closure in the late 1990s. This would mean loss of service provision, the associated waste of resources, and loss of skills, investment and expertise.
Across the independent agencies there was agreement about areas for priority consideration. Poor access to services included the lack of Benefits Agency and fuel board offices in Castlemilk. Furthermore, there was restricted access for people with mobility problems to most of the main service providers. Absence of appropriate retail and commercial facilities made budgeting on low incomes even harder, increased the likelihood of accumulating problem debts and reduced opportunities for social activities.
A major contributory factor to the low incomes in Castlemilk was the lack of affordable child care, which restricted opportunities for work or training. There was scope for a local welfare rights campaign, focusing on benefits associated with the costs of disability, ill-health and caring.
Combinations of circumstances leading to extensive fuel poverty included low incomes, cold conditions, poor structural design and repair of housing, inadequate heating systems and controls, dampness, and a high proportion of households who spent long periods at home.
Educational disadvantage, unemployment, inadequate income and isolation, could lead to loss of confidence, feelings of stigmatisation and deterioration of mental health. It was hard for people to take advantage of opportunities and they suffered entrenched feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Despite a recurrent view that the problem of poverty directly reflected national policies of the past decade, most organisations believed that local initiatives could be valuable, and that a multi-agency approach offered advantages.
Copies of the full report"Living in Castlemilk" are available priced £5.00.
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For additional copies of this Research Findings write to
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