Free debt help charity, Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Scotland, are concerned that a rising number of households across Scotland are at risk of being pushed into problem debt following last week’s energy price cap increase of 54%.
CAP Scotland National Director, Emma Jackson, said, “While we welcome announcements today from the Scottish Government to provide financial support for those facing soaring costs, the measures outlined do not go far enough to support people on the lowest incomes.
“We understand the limitations of the Scottish Government in their response and the difficult decisions that have to be made, but it is deeply disappointing that more isn’t being done to target those who need it the most. Supporting households in receipt of Council Tax reduction is a step towards reaching households most in need, and we welcome the news of Local Authorities being able to carry forward any underspend from the Discretionary Housing Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund in order to provide targeted support. On top of this, the additional funding provided through the Fuel Insecurity Fund is a welcome step towards preventing families across Scotland from having to self-disconnect or self-ration. But it isn’t enough.
“Many households are facing rising costs far greater than the £350 of promised support and we remain concerned that possible Council Tax increases could undo any positive impact these measures may bring. With an estimated increase of 43% in the number of fuel poor households in Scotland, taking us to a total of 874,000, things remain on a knife edge and rising bills put more people at risk of being pushed into problem debt.
“At CAP Scotland we have a number of recommendations that we’d like to see implemented as soon as possible, to protect low income households who we know will be hit the hardest by the energy and cost of living crisis.
“We are asking the UK Government for a 7.25% increase in benefits rates in April which will allow payments to keep pace with the unusually steep rise in inflation, and help low-income households meet the higher cost of living.
“This needs to be brought in quickly to help low income households ahead of the energy prices rises in April, and not only support them through the initial shock of higher prices but make sure households can afford the cost of higher bills which are expected to last for at least two years.
“Scotland already has the highest levels of extreme fuel poverty in the UK. We need to ensure that Local Authorities are equipped to do everything in their power to provide targeted support where it is needed most. Ultimately, we need government at all levels to be working together to alleviate the cost of living crisis. As a just and compassionate society, we need to do all that we can to protect people across Scotland from being forced into poverty and problem debt. ”