Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) called on Ministers to provide targeted support for households at high risk of fuel poverty during the Covid-19 pandemic.
During Portfolio Questions, Mr McArthur highlighted that Orkney has consistently had one of the highest levels of fuel poverty in the country. He also made the point that households in fuel poverty are clinically most vulnerable to Covid and urged the Cabinet Secretary for Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville to consider specific measures to support those affected by high fuel bills.
In response, Ms Somerville confirmed she would take on board Mr McArthur’s points moving forward and also pointed out that the government is supporting local authorities to encourage people to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund if they need help with fuel costs.
After the exchange, Orkney’s MSP commented:
“Fuel poverty continues to blight communities across the country, but our rural and island areas remain the worst affected.
“Evidence suggests that not only does Covid present a particular clinical risk to fuel poor households, it is also pushing more people into fuel poverty.
“We already know that the lockdown restrictions are putting a serious strain on household fuel bills at a time when people do not necessarily have the economic security they had a few months ago. For those households already in a vulnerable position, the pandemic is likely to make matters worse and the need for support more urgent.
“The Scottish and UK Governments have set aside funds to address these issues, but there do appear to be delays in getting the money to where it is needed. I welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s acknowledgement of the specific challenges facing households in island communities such as Orkney and her commitment to ensuring the Welfare Fund and other measures are meeting the needs of islanders.
“I will be monitoring the situation locally over the coming weeks and months. Should delays continue, I will demand that Ministers step in to address these.”