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Council / SIC looks to distribute winter funding to more families

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts. Photo: Shetland News

AN EXTRA 168 families in Shetland are to receive financial support this Christmas thanks to the council diverting funding from the Scottish Government to those who need it most.

The government is providing £100 per child in receipt of school meals under its new winter support fund, which is based on national criteria.

It aims help those on low incomes, and children and people at risk of homelessness or social isolation, cope with the winter weather and the economic impact of coronavirus and Brexit.

Shetland Islands Council (SIC) leader Steven Coutts explained that the local authority has also received an extra £39,000 through the scheme which has an “element of discretion to support those in need”.

He said the SIC will use this funding to provide £100 per child to families who are not eligible for the main government scheme.

“We feel the national criteria is not broad enough to catch those families suffering financial insecurity,” he said.

“This is based on the work and knowledge of our staff in Shetland.”

Coutts said this will include eligible pre-school and school children receiving support like clothing grants – “all of whom would miss out at present but suffer financially”.

The councillor said this is a “significant” number.

It means a further 168 families in Shetland will receive support in addition to the 334 expected to benefit from the Scottish Government winter support fund.

“We are also ensuring that there is support for food and fuel over and above this for those in need,” Coutts said.

Orkney Islands Council, meanwhile, said this week that it would give a £200 direct payment to those children receiving free school meals – £100 from the Scottish Government payment and a further top up payment of £100 from the local authority.