Wick features in 'most deprived' statistics
PARTS of Wick have been highlighted within a new report published by Scotland's chief statistician on the most deprived communities in Scotland.
Wick South – part of Pulteneytown – comes third in a table of statistics, compiled for the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), on the most deprived areas within north and north-east Scotland.
Councillor Nicola Sinclair, who represents Wick and East Caithness on Highland Council, said: "It’s sad to once again see areas of Caithness highlighted as among the most deprived in Scotland.
"Poverty is affecting many of our families, and it’s exacerbated by our distance from many outreach services available to communities nearer the central belt."
She added that she was particularly concerned about fuel poverty.
"Unlike most other areas of Highland, we have a good availability of housing, but many properties are not on the gas network and this means many people struggle to afford to heat their homes."
Councillor Sinclair said a pilot project was being looked at to address the issue as a priority.
Commenting on the SIMD statistics, Scotland's communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: “The Scottish Government is supporting our most disadvantaged and poorest communities through a variety of ways.
“In 2018/19, we invested more than £1.4 billion in support targeted at low-income households, including over £100 million to mitigate the worst impacts of UK Government welfare cuts.
“We are investing significantly in communities across Scotland, including through the multimillion-pound city region growth deals, and we remain focused on achieving inclusive growth.
"Our £20 million Empowering Communities Programme is helping to tackle inequalities and promote local growth and sustainability across Scotland, and through our regeneration programmes we are also investing more than £31 million."
Councillor Sinclair said she felt heartened at how the local community works together "to look after one another" and that the voluntary sector should be particularly applauded for its work.
"Caithness Voluntary Group, working in partnership with Thurso Community Development Trust and Pulteneytown People’s Project, recently completed a project funded by Aspiring Communities to better understand inequalities within Caithness, with childcare, transport, youth activities and access to mental health services being common across the county."
She also said that the expansion of free childcare coming into effect this year will help matters but that there is much more to do.
"Organisations such as Home-Start, Caithness Community Connections, Citizens Advice Bureau, Caithness Drug and Alcohol Forum and Caithness Foodbank are working tirelessly to support the most vulnerable people in our towns and villages.
"The council, NHS Highland, Police Scotland and other partners are working together to see how we can offer more support for those organisations."
Councillor Sinclair said that a spirit of "empathy and pragmatism" together with a "joined-up approach" will help tackle the deep-rooted and devastating aspects of poverty.