Scottish minister's ‘fears’ for families amid cost-of-living crisis

Social justice minister Shona Robison “fears” for families who will be unable to heat their homes or put food on the table as the cost of living spirals.

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Speaking to Holyrood’s health, social care and sport committee, Ms Robison said he Scottish Government could not “mitigate” every rise in the cost of living for low-income families.

She said Scottish Government “discussions are still ongoing” for the best way of utilising the money which came from Barnett consequentials following the UK Government’s announcement over a funding package of council tax and energy bill rebates for some families.

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Last week Ofgem announced a 54 per cent rise in the energy price cap, taking the price of an annual default tariff to £1,971 – up from £1,277. Inflation has risen and food prices are also continuing to increase.

Energy bills are set to rocket.Energy bills are set to rocket.
Energy bills are set to rocket.

Ms Robison said: “I really fear for the ability of people being able to keep their heating on or food on the table. So I think the support that that we have already been focusing on – but we'll look to do more – has been really to try to make sure that we help those who need it most.”

The social care minister added: “Discussions are ongoing about what more we can do in that space and soon there will be further information about that through the Budget. But will we be able to mitigate every part of the cost-of-living impact? I don't think we can on a fixed budget, but what we can do is make sure our support is targeted at those who are most in need.

"I was in a meeting with [net zero secretary] Michael Matheson with the big energy companies to ask them what they're going to do around support for consumers and we've been calling on government for urgent tangible action against increasing energy bills. In terms of food costs, we have been supporting a number of initiatives around food poverty.”

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Ms Robison said the Scottish government had called on its UK counterpart to take action such as cutting VAT on energy bills.

She said: “We think the UK Government can go further. We don’t have the powers for setting or changing energy tariff levels, but we are continuing to engage with Ofgem and urging the UK Government and energy suppliers to go further in the support they provide in a way that actually helps the most vulnerable.”

Speaking at the same meeting, Clare Haughey, minister for children and young people, said the Scottish Government was doing all it could to alleviate child poverty, but was “fighting with one hand tied behind its back” due to UK Government cuts such as the roll-back on the uplift to Universal Credit implemented during the pandemic.

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