Anti-poverty activists and community organisations joined forces with North Ayrshire Council to look at ways to loosen the grip of poverty on people’s lives.

The event, held in Irvine’s Townhouse, marked the local launch of Get Heard Scotland, an initiative that helps people affected by poverty get their voices heard on policies and decisions that most impact their lives.

The initiative will be rolled out in North Ayrshire during Challenge Poverty Week in October to give communities a chance to join in discussions about what’s working, what’s not working, and what needs to change to better support people living on low incomes.

Among the speakers at the event was North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane, Peter Kelly of the Poverty Alliance, and Audrey Sutton, Executive Director of Communities at the council.

Councillor Cullinane said tackling poverty and inequality are key priorities, having launched a number of initiatives in recent years including the introduction of free sanitary products in council buildings, the commitment to build 1,375 much-needed new council houses, and becoming a Real Living Wage Employer.

He said: “We have made some progress but there is more work to do.

“The Get Heard session was valuable as it allows us to kickstart a conversation about poverty and inequality – it’s a conversation we need to have as the number of families living in poverty in our area is simply unacceptable.

“We cannot shy away from how big the problem of poverty and deprivation is. Instead we must raise awareness of the lived experiences of people in our community because that’s the only way in which we challenge ourselves by asking tough questions that need to be addressed and then focus on the bold actions required to tackle the problem.

“Get Heard will be part of our Challenge Poverty Week activities later this year with sessions allowing people across North Ayrshire to make their voice heard on poverty, and how we tackle it.”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “Across North Ayrshire, we know that there is great work already underway to loosen the grip of poverty on people’s lives.

“This event will help to highlight that work and also identify what more can be done.”