The cost of living challenge on Arran and Cumbrae
Across North Ayrshire, fuel poverty affects over 1 in 4 households, whilst 1 in 10 households experience food poverty. With high levels of economic inactivity and a child poverty rate of almost 30%, rising costs hit hardest for our poorest and most insecure households.
How people experience the cost of living crisis depends on where they live. A lack of precise data makes it difficult to draw upon any specific numbers to reflect the experience of island communities, but with poor access to the grid and high import costs, rural and island communities in Scotland face particular vulnerabilities around fuel and food poverty.
Additional transportation costs to bring goods to the island feed through to higher food prices than mainland UK, with high levels of food inflation therefore disproportionately hitting island communities. As recent Centre for Progressive Policy research shows, higher levels of fuel poverty in remote Scottish communities are mainly due to homes being larger, draughtier, and more reliant upon alternative fuel sources, which are unprotected by the Energy Price Cap. This leaves more households exposed to volatile markets.
To tackle the specific challenges facing our island communities, the Scottish Government has allocated £80,000 to Arran and Cumbrae through the Islands Cost Crisis Emergency Fund. Two place-based mini enquiries on the islands have allowed us to further specify the challenges for local island-based third and voluntary sector groups to tackle. The Council has committed a further £12,000 to support local island activity.
We have also funded EnergySmart, an existing service to support household energy efficiency measures and crisis grants; Money Matters, a service to provide welfare rights assistance to residents to ensure they receive their legal entitlement to state benefits; and school-based initiatives, including online after school study support, laundry services, and visiting specialists for children unable to visit the mainland.