Around 3,100 residents, or 24% of the working age population, in the Outer Hebrides were ‘furloughed’ under the Covid-19 Job Protection Scheme by 21 August 2020. 

This shocking total is revealed by the Outer Hebrides Anti-poverty Strategy Group today (Wednesday December 16)

In addition, 700 individuals in the islands had made claims to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, with the claims amounting to an estimated total value of £1.7m.

Applications for Universal Credit in the Outer Hebrides also initially increased threefold (from 350 to 870) as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on local employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, fuel poverty was another crisis area. The most recent Scottish Government figures (Scottish House Condition Survey 2016-2018: Published 2020) show that 36% of all households in the Outer Hebrides are in Fuel Poverty (approximately 3000 houses). This is the highest figure in Scotland. A person is seen as living in fuel poverty if, to heat their home to a satisfactory standard, they need to spend more than 10 per cent of their household income on fuel. The Scottish average figure for Fuel Poverty is 25%.

And child poverty has risen by more than 19%.  So Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is also confirming that eligible families will receive Free School Meals payments for the holidays and an additional new hardship allowance this week.

The Comhairle will also be issuing a backdated payment of £20 for the October holidays and a payment of £25 for the Christmas holidays for each child in receipt of free school meals.

The Comhairle welcomes applications from parents who have not applied for Free School Meals before the 30th of November and especially from parents of P1-P3 pupils who receive Free School Meals through “universal provision” but think they may be entitled on the basis of income.  New successful applications for Free School Meals before the second week in January will receive the £100 hardship payment.

Link to the online form - https://forms.cne-siar.gov.uk/form/auto/vof_ecs_grants?dform_title=Free%20School%20Meals%20/%20Clothing%20Grant%20Application%20Form

The Comhairle has also received funding to distribute Winter Hardship payments of £100 per child to low-income families who are eligible for Free School Meals and details are below:

The COVID Hardship Payment is a new payment, made in addition to continued Free School Meal provision over forthcoming holidays. It should be paid to families in advance of the Christmas break. They received £100 per child for those in receipt of Free School Meals, on the basis of low income criteria, on 30 November.

Those who subsequently registered may be paid after the Christmas break, but no later than the second week in January. 

The Comhairle are also issuing a Winter Clothing grant of £100 to all applicants who are existing clothing grant recipients. These payments will be accompanying this week’s payments for hardship and Free School Meals. Each recipient will be sent a letter, by email, with a breakdown of the payments they are getting this week.

Councillor Angus McCormack, Chair of the Poverty Action Group said, “These payments come at just the right moment to help families who are challenged at this time. COVID19 has added additional burdens for us all and despite the hard and extensive work of officers associated with the Poverty Action Group in supporting those in difficulty, child poverty has risen to over 19%.

“Families are now in need of help who would not normally have found themselves attending food banks. I hope this payment will assist in making life more bearable.

“I should like to thank all those in our community who have risen to the challenge of offering support to those in need.”

The Outer Hebrides Anti-poverty Strategy Group has approved its draft Outer Hebrides Local Child Poverty Action Plan for further public consultation.

It can be accessed here: https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/media/16475/ohcpppoverty-plan-updatedecember-2020.pdf

The Local Child Poverty Action Report was approved by the board of NHS Western Isles, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership in the Autumn of 2019 and implementation of the plan subsequently commenced.

The report examines the following areas related to child poverty in detail childcare, access to IT, period poverty, food poverty, transport, school uniform, Impact on NHS, Impact on Business, Impact on Partner Agencies and Community Services.

Any comments should be sent to the OHCPP Secretariat:  Steven Ferguson: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..