Tackling the cost of living crisis facing the poorest families will require urgent action from both Holyrood and Westminster, campaigners have said.
A coalition of seven charities have written to the First Minister ahead of the Scottish Government’s weekly Resilience Committee meeting, which will discuss the progress being made to address the worsening crisis.
Action for Children, Aberlour, Barnardo’s Scotland, Children 1st, One Parent Scotland, Save the Children UK, and Who Cares? Scotland appealed to the Scottish Government to establish a “much-needed” Winter Support Fund, as it previously had done in 2021.
The letter addressed to Nicola Sturgeon warns many families will suffer a “harrowing and alarming winter” as they contend with skyrocketing bills and urges the government to provide a lifeline in the form of a Winter Support Fund.
The charities warned that Scotland’s poverty targets will also be hampered unless further support is given.
The correspondence argues that the scale of the financial challenge ahead is at least as serious as the pandemic and so the level of support must match what has been delivered previously.
Last year the Winter Support Fund enabled Action for Children to give financial support to many families. One parent of two daughters who received support said: “The vouchers have made all the difference as I had been so worried about not having enough food and presents for the girls at Christmas”.
But this year, parents continue to struggle as costs soar.
One mother told Save The Children she had had to tell her child she did not know if the youngster could have a bath, because she was unsure if they had enough left on the prepayment meter to cover it.
The unnamed parent, from Inverclyde, told the charity: “I’ve actually caught myself going [to my child], I don’t know if I can give you a bath because I don’t know how much money I’ve got left in the meter”.
The joint warning was issued in the wake of Ofgem’s announcement that the energy price cap will rise to more than £3,500 from October.
Paul Carberry, Action for Children’s director for Scotland, said: “The families we support are already under enormous pressure and are now set to face a relentless wave of energy price hikes and inflation all while coping with the colder weather.
“We are seeing more and more frightened families who are reaching crisis point. Some parents are coming to us in tears, terrified about how they are going to feed their children. Many of these families have already cut back to the bone and have nowhere left to cut.
“That is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to renew the lifeline they gave last year to keep families afloat. By investing in a Winter Support Fund this year, it will give families some much needed help and assurances over the coldest and darkest months ahead.”
The open letter notes the current support the Scottish Government has provided it also informs the First Minister that the charities are also pushing the UK Government to take similar immediate action.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is very concerned at the hardship households are facing in this cost crisis and is doing everything possible within our limited powers and finite budgets to help.
“However, most of the key policy levers needed to address the crisis still lie with the UK Government so we continue to urge them to use all the levers at their disposal to tackle this emergency on the scale required – these include access to borrowing, providing benefits and support to households, VAT on fuel, taxation of windfall profits and regulation of the energy market.
“The Scottish Government has allocated almost £3 billion in this financial year to help households face the increased cost of living, including the provision of services and financial support not available elsewhere in the UK.
“Every single penny that the Scottish Government has been allocated for cost-of-living measures will go on cost-of-living measures.”