A “no questions asked” coat exchange is aimed to help tackle poverty amid fears lives could be lost with the country facing its highest hike in fuel bills yet.
The Leith Collective, in Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal, has rails of good quality coats available for collection now at no cost – the offer has brought some families to tears, the social enterprise said.
The Community Interest Company (CIC) ran a successful Christmas tree exchange in December 2021 – rehoming trees languishing in peoples’ lofts to those who could not afford to buy one.
Now locals are being urged to donate coats to those in need as the cost of living soars – coming after a week of announcements about the prices of household bills increasing.
Leith Collective founder, Sara Thomson, told STV News: “Years ago we didn’t have the stigma about taking something from somebody else and reusing it, that’s what we want to stop.
“We want to build communities back up to say, ‘I’ve got a spare coat, just you have this one’.
“We used to take hand-me-downs from neighbours, friends, family, wear them and it was not an issue.
‘We’ve had families in here in tears just to be so thankful to have something to make their day or their life that little bit easier.’Leith Collective founder, Sara Thomson
“We didn’t have as much landfill then. We didn’t have as much rubbish then so now the key is to basically reuse things that we would have reused years ago.
“We’ve had families in here in tears just to be so thankful to have something to make their day or their life that little bit easier and having a free coat for their children makes their life a little bit easier.”
Although it was been a relatively mild winter so far, there are concerns the impact of fuel prices rising will see families pushed into poverty.
Scotland’s energy secretary Michael Matheson said up to 900,000 homes in Scotland could either be in fuel poverty or extreme fuel poverty as a result of bills jumping by almost £700 for an average household in April.
“The nation is currently facing a poverty crisis, with the cost of living rising faster than ever, and job insecurity resulting from the pandemic still affecting many,” Mrs Thomson said.
“Edinburgh is not immune to this and we’re witnessing the damaging effects here in Leith and beyond. Coupled with the climate crisis, we felt we had to take action and try to help.
“And so the coat exchange was born. Not only is it a sustainable solution that keeps quality clothes out of landfill and in use, it also provides a valuable opportunity to kit out families in genuine need.”
Coats of any size can be dropped off at The Leith Collective where they will be quarantined for 72 hours, in-line with Covid safety guidance. They will then be displayed outside the store for anyone to collect.
As well as the cost of gas and electricity rocketing by more than 50%, interest rates have also risen, for the second time in three months, as the Bank of England said it was trying to tackle a rapid rise in the cost of living.
On Friday, Scottish Water announced household water bills are to increase by 4.2% for the next year.
Citizens Advice Scotland has warned about increasing demand for energy advice following the then-record price cap rise of around £140 in October 2021.
“There is a real risk that lives will be lost this year out of this financial crisis,” said Michael Matheson MSP.
Both the Scottish and UK Governments have announced plans to curb the cost of living crisis.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that all households will receive a £200 discount on bills from October, but that will have to be repaid over five years.
Families with children at risk of going into care or with experience of care in Scotland will share a £3m fund to help them with cost of living pressures.