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Campaign urges Highlanders to seek help 'before costs crisis point'

By Tom Ramage

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A new campaign is under way in the Highlands to persuade those hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis to reach out to a team is offering to help.

The crisis has led to very tough times for many families in the Highlands: rocketing food and energy prices have been very challenging, especially for families on low incomes who already have money worries.

Finding enough money for food, heating, and lighting bills, and for things that children need on a day-to-day basis can lead to real stress and anxiety for many parents and carers.

Advice for those up against it in the cost of living crisis
Advice for those up against it in the cost of living crisis

Child Protection Scotland’s new #ItsOkayToAsk campaign encourages any parent or carer who is struggling to meet the financial demands of looking after their children to ask for help before reaching crisis point.

Co-designed in conjunction with two Scottish family support organisations Stepping Stones and Dads Rock, the new #ItsOkayToAsk digital campaign has been designed using ideas and input from both groups.

In support of the national campaign and reflecting on its impact locally within Highland, the chair of the council’s corporate resources committee, Derek Louden, commented: “Too many families are already experiencing hardship, or are close to it, and are continuing to have their household incomes squeezed. Highland already has higher than national average rates of fuel poverty, which will only serve to place additional pressures on household finances for many across the region”.

Councillor Louden concluded: “The It’s Okay To Ask campaign has a number of useful and well-established resources for citizens to refer to, however, it’s also important for individuals to remember that locally we have a range of financial support available within the council and the third-sector.

Councillor Derek Louden: 'There's a range of financial supports available'
Councillor Derek Louden: 'There's a range of financial supports available'

"I would urge anyone who is being affected to reach out at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent financial insecurities from spiralling further.”

Meanwhile, Lyndsey Johnston, one of the council’s Children and Young People champions, added: “While the impact of the cost of living crisis is undoubtedly being felt across the breadth of the region, a number of key groups are acutely impacted by this.”

She added: “Financial insecurities can result in mental and physical ill-health for some parents and carers. Such pressure can often permeate within a family household and have a lasting impact on children and young people living within this environment.

"Over time, lack of money can have really serious consequences and take a big toll on family life. This campaign is therefore playing a key role in highlighting the importance of early intervention and the need to seek support before reaching financial crisis.”

Lyndsey Johnston: children's champion
Lyndsey Johnston: children's champion

Child Protection Scotland chair Tam Baillie is clear about the effects of the cost-of-living crisis on families and children and hopes the campaign will encourage parents to be brave and ask for help if they’re struggling:

“It can be difficult and embarrassing to ask for help, but there is support out there, so it’s very important for your children, and for yourself, to ask for help if you need it. It’s a lot better to get help than to let things get really, really bad. Every council has an emergency fund to help families, and there are lots of local community groups who can provide advice and guidance.”

In supporting the Scotland-wide campaign, individuals in Highland are being reminded of the sources of the local support available to them and are urged to seek help before reaching crisis point.

The council’s welfare support team provides free, impartial, and confidential support on financial insecurity concerns, in addition to offering assistance to check eligibility and submit a claim for all benefits and entitlements. The team can be contacted by phone on 0800 090 1004 or by e-mail welfare.support@highland.gov.uk.

Parents and carers can find sources of help and support on the #ItsOkayToAsk campaign page on the Child Protection Scotland website.

The campaign is running now for a period of two weeks, concluding on December 3.

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