Back into Holyrood last week after recess, I was pleased to respond on behalf of the Scottish Government in last Tuesday’s Challenge Poverty Week debate.
The week itself, held in the first week of October, was an opportunity to recognise the increasing impact that the cost-of-living crisis is having on folk across the country, and to discuss solutions to a situation that is compounding hardship for so many. We need to ensure that folk have adequate incomes and that no one goes hungry.
And that is where organisations on the frontline in Orkney are key, with Orkney Citizens Advice Bureau, THAW Orkney, Orkney Blide Trust, Orkney Islands Council’s Scottish Welfare Fund team and others coming together under the Orkney Money Matters project, which I visited in August, to deliver a cash-first approach to tackling poverty.
THAW Orkney is delivering the Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund, helping keep the heat on in so many Orkney households. Along with their partners they are working to ensure those in crisis get cash to help them shop for the essentials with the same dignity and choice as anyone else.
Tackling poverty runs through everything we do as a government. In the past two years we have allocated almost £3 billion to support services – including the Orkney Money Matters project – that tackle poverty and protect folk as far as possible in the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
On the topic of getting cash into the hands of folk that are entitled to it, I would encourage young folk and care leavers on benefits in Orkney to check whether they are eligible for the Job Start Payment.
This is a one-off cash payment worth £294.70 or £471.50 from Social Security Scotland, and is designed to help with the costs associated with starting work.
Changes mean that income from trial shifts no longer rules out a young person from receiving the payment, so it is worth checking eligibility now. The deadline for applying has been extended from three months after a job offer to six months and more simplified support information about the job offer is required.
Young people and care leavers in Orkney make an invaluable contribution to the community, and I welcome these changes which make it easier for them to access support in seeking employment.
In the three years since it was launched, the Job Start Payment has made a huge difference to the lives of many young people, alleviating the pressure of starting a new job and helping to ease costs that can be extremely prohibitive.
As cost-of-living pressures persist – largely due to a hard Tory Brexit and the disastrous mini-budget – we as a government are doing all we can to support those who need it most, showing just what is possible with the full powers of independence
The SNP is determined to ensure that folk in Orkney get the money that they are entitled to and I strongly encourage those who think they may be eligible to check and apply for this payment.
This is a regular column by Emma Roddick SNP MSP. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.