400 ways you can help this winter - Stephen Pearson & Carolyn Sawers

At the launch event of Financial Inclusion for Scotland (FIFS), the audience heard an urgent and heartfelt plea from one speaker. “This is an emergency”, she said, “We need action not words.” We heard that food banks are running out of food and that we risk returning to levels of hunger for some people not seen since Victorian times.

In its Poverty in Scotland Report issued last October, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation stated that “Nearly one in five households on low incomes in Scotland have gone hungry and cold this year, even before we enter the winter months.” Things will have worsened since then and hardly a day goes by without further reports of hardship in parts of our communities, where some people are living on the edges of society. 850,000 Scots have no savings to fall back on. Many fear asking for help, with the resulting stigma that attaches to such requests. No one chooses to be in this position.

The immediate reaction of many in the room at the FIFS launch was, “But what can we do?” Well, the pre-Christmas launch of the GIVE400.scot initiative may provide at least part of the answer for some of us. GIVE400 was conceived by a small group of concerned Scots to try and help to address the urgency of the situation in many households and to help tackle fuel poverty and the cost of living crisis in Scotland.

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Every household in the UK is receiving a £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme payment from the UK Government in six monthly instalments this winter. The simple idea of GIVE400 is to encourage those who can afford to do so, to donate all or part of that £400 (or indeed more if they wish) to a charity or good cause of their choice. Alternatively, they can give to the Household Hardship Fund of the Scottish charity, Corra Foundation. Many people donate time and money already of course. But we know that this initiative is already providing additional support.

GIVE400 aims to encourage those who can afford to it to donate all or part of their £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme payment to a good cause

Corra Foundation is a Scottish charity that, since being set up in 1985, has delivered more than 16,000 grants totalling almost £200 million to disadvantaged communities in Scotland. Its Household Hardship Fund makes small grants to charities and community groups across Scotland, delivering funding directly to families and individuals on low income, with cash or vouchers to cover food, fuel, household items, and clothing.

When they last re-opened their Household Hardship Fund to applications from grassroots groups who pass the funds on to people on low incomes, Corra found that the levels of need and urgent requests for support are shocking and sobering in scale. Within 48 hours, Corra had received applications for more than £1.1m, well beyond the £1m budget they were distributing for the National Lottery Community Fund. The Fund re-opened on 10 January.

The hugely worrying crisis means more people are being caught in the rising tide of poverty. Families are having to make impossible choices at the moment and, while they are doing so with dignity, they need a great deal of additional support. We know that every extra pound donated, whether directly or through Corra, will make a massive difference to families across Scotland struggling every single day just to make ends meet.

There are great organisations on the ground in communities in every corner of Scotland. Donations from those who feel they can afford it can ensure that help reaches those organisations and, through them, those people who need it most.

Stephen Pearson is chair of Financial Inclusion for Scotland

In the initial pre-Christmas period, over £30,000 was donated to Corra in response to GIVE400.scot; with unmeasured further amounts to other causes. Already, recipients are commenting on the huge difference this is making.

The GIVE400 proposition is straightforward. If you don’t need it, good deed it. Suppose only 5,000 households in Scotland make that £400 donation, in whatever way they choose. That in itself would contribute an extra £2 million to help those in the greatest need this winter. That would indeed be action not words.

Visit www.give400.scot to find out more.

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Stephen Pearson is chair of Financial Inclusion for Scotland and Carolyn Sawers is chief executive of Corra.

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