For low income families across Scotland there won’t be much to celebrate this Christmas as COVID-19 continues to hit the poorest hardest.
Families already struggling to keep their heads above water against a rising tide of financial insecurity are finding themselves trapped in poverty by spiralling debt.
Energy bills are on the rise and so are living costs, with many families racking up council tax and rent arrears they simply cannot afford.
Families we work with at Aberlour face being pulled under by the weight of what they owe to local authorities, housing associations and others.
Meanwhile families who rely on Universal Credit have seen the UK Government take £20 per week out of their pockets – more than £1000 a year – at a time when they need it most.
Often struggling families have been forced to choose between keeping the heating on or putting food on the table.
Now, more and more families can’t afford to do either.
We know that even before COVID struck more than 1 in 4 children in Scotland were growing up in poverty.
All measures indicate that child poverty has increased even further due to the impact of the pandemic.
After last year we all want to enjoy a Christmas with family and friends and to make this year’s festivities even more special than usual.
But families we support aren’t asking themselves how they will pay for Christmas, they are asking how they will survive the winter.
Families are at breaking point.
They tell us they are desperate and in despair due to everything they have gone through in the last eighteen months.
They are stressed and worried about their finances and about plunging further into debt, and what that means for their children’s future.
They are worried about their children’s mental health and how they will keep up at school.
Increasingly, families tell us their children are missing out life experiences, that they don’t have adequate clothing, that they aren’t sure where the next meal is coming from and they are afraid to put the heating on.
That’s why we have launched Aberlour’s ‘Poverty to Hope Fundraising Appeal’ to support children and families through the dark and hard winter months ahead.
We aim to be there for families with nowhere else to turn to.
We do what we can to provide help and support for families facing extreme financial hardship.
We help to meet families’ immediate needs, but often families need more than just financial help.
At Aberlour we do what we can to be there not just at the point of crisis but for as long as families need us.
We also aim to makes sure the voices of families we work with are heard by amplifying what they tell us will make things better for them and their children.
And so, we’ve continued to lobby both the UK and Scottish Governments to do everything they can to tackle child poverty by making sure families have an income that can allow them to thrive.
Last week the First Minister committed to increasing the Scottish Child Payment from £10 to £20 per child per week for low income families.
This is a hugely welcome development that Aberlour, along with our End Child Poverty coalition partners and many others, campaigned tirelessly for.
This can’t come quickly enough and will be a real boost for families most in need, but won’t happen until April.
Before then families are facing a long and bleak winter.
That’s why at Aberlour we are doing everything we can to help families right now – and to be a beacon of hope.
This article was written for The Scottish Sun and published on Monday 13th December 2021. Read the article on The Scottish Sun website here.