Social Security Support (Motherwell and Wishaw)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 25 January 2024.

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Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government what social security support is available to people in the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency who are experiencing poverty, including fuel poverty. (S6O-03008)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government’s priority is to do everything that we can to help those who are worst affected by the cost of living crisis, which is why, since 2022-23, we have continued to allocate around £3 billion a year to support policies that tackle poverty and protect people as far as possible. That includes our investment of more than £22 million this winter through our winter heating payment to support around 400,000 households on the lowest incomes to heat their homes. We have also invested more than £7 million this year, making more than 30,000 payments of the child winter heating payment to children, young people and their families in Scotland who may have higher fuel needs due to a disability or health condition. There is no equivalent support available elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

We continue to raise our investment, increasing all social security benefits in 2024-25 by 6.7 per cent, in recognition of the challenges that are being faced across Scotland.

Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

E nergy companies are resuming the installation of prepayment meters under warrant, following updated advice from the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets. I have contacted Ofgem and major energy suppliers, which say that that is a last resort. However, my constituents in Motherwell and Wishaw, who are at the sharp end of that unfair practice by the energy suppliers, tell a very different story. Energy policy remains reserved to Westminster, so what engagement has the Scottish Government had with the UK Government regarding the unfair position that is faced by people who are forced to take prepayment meters?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I very much share the member’s concerns regarding the reintroduction of forced prepayment meter installations. Ofgem’s code of practice requiring suppliers to meet a number of conditions before taking such action is an important step. However, too many households remain at risk from that practice, especially with energy costs remaining so high. We believe that energy suppliers must exhaust all options, including meaningful support to struggling households to manage debt, before imposing prepayment meters. The Minister for Energy and the Environment has raised the matter previously with the UK Minister for Affordability and Skills and will continue to pursue the matter in meetings with the UK Government and Ofgem in the coming weeks.