Campaign urges those concerned over finances to seek help
Isles residents worried about what coronavirus is doing to their finances are being urged to seek advice on what could be done to help them.
It comes as a new campaign has been launched by the Scottish government and Citizens Advice which aims to raise awareness of the level of support on offer in the isles.
The campaign provides information on issues including rent and mortgage payments, energy bills, council tax, and benefits people may be entitled to.
Forty-three per cent of people in the Highlands and Islands are said to be concerned about the impact the pandemic is having on their household finances.
Nationwide, more than half of parents with 12—16 year-olds – 53 per cent – say the pandemic is already having a negative effect on their money.
The research was conducted on the Yougov online omnibus survey over two days last month, with 1,002 adults aged 18 and over taking part in the process.
Isles CAB manager Karen Eunson said: “The Covid-19 outbreak has presented real challenges for local people and Shetland CAB is still here to serve the community and ensure people get the advice they need.
“We are offering a full advice service over the phone, and by email.
“This pandemic is an anxious time for everyone, while Covid-19 is a public health emergency, it’s a huge economic challenge too, and people have been coming to us with concerns about employment, housing and benefits during this period.
“Our message to people who are struggling is simple – your local Citizens Advice Bureaux is here to help.”
Meanwhile, the council’s depute leader Emma MacDonald insisted it was “okay to ask for help”.
“Every one of us is currently facing different challenges and for a lot of us money will be a major worry,” said Ms MacDonald, who also sits on the Shetland Integration Joint Board.
“We are already seeing extra demand on our local foodbanks, and more folk than normal are having to look for support through things like universal credit.
“That is something new for Shetland. However, it is important that you get the help you need.
“You are not alone and it is okay to ask for help. Our local CAB service moved quickly to change the way they work and continues to provide advice and support to folk across the isles by phone and by email.”
Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell said: “There is no doubt that this is a difficult and worrying time for everyone. Today’s findings further underline the need to provide people across Scotland with the correct support, guidance and information to help them with their finances.
“We need to ensure that people are aware of all the support that they are entitled to, including benefits delivered by DWP, and I would encourage everyone across Scotland who is facing financial difficulty to look into what help is available to them.
“That’s why we’ve been working with the Citizens Advice network in Scotland to create this central source of information – with everything from guidance on benefits, right through to what you can do if you are worried about paying your mortgage or rent.”