Addressing the SNP’s annual conference today (Monday), SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon will unveil a £100 million winter fund for low income households – including a £100 direct payment for families of children in receipt of free school meals.
Ms Sturgeon will warn that the COVID-19 crisis has laid down a challenge of “no longer accepting problems as inevitable or insoluble” – such as deep-seated poverty and inequality.
She will say, however, that the Scottish Parliament has one hand tied behind its back in tackling these issues – because Westminster and Boris Johnson have control over the bulk of Scotland’s social security system.
In addition, new funds will be invested to help people with fuel bills, to support those who are homeless and to prevent loneliness and isolation amongst older people this winter.
Ms Sturgeon is expected to say: “To make sure the country we rebuild is the one we want it to be, with kindness, compassion, fairness, equality and enterprise at its heart – and not one made in the image of Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers – we must make sure we are working to the right plan, with all the tools we need to do the job.”
The First Minister will say, however, that “we won’t wait to be independent to start doing the right things now” – and is expected to add:
“We will shortly become the only part of the UK to give low income families an extra £10 per week for every child – initially for children up to age 6 and then for every child up to age 16. This has been described as a game-changer in the fight to end child poverty.
“The first payments will be made in February. But I know that for families struggling now, February is still a long way off.
“So I am announcing today a £100 million package to bridge that gap, and help others struggling most with the impact of Covid over the winter months.
“It will include money to help people pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry.
“It will offer additional help for the homeless, and fund an initiative to get older people online and connected.
“And, most importantly of all, it will provide a cash grant of £100 for every family with children in receipt of free school meals.
“The money will be paid before Christmas and families can use it for whatever will help them through the winter. That could be food, new shoes or a winter coat for the kids.
“Families will know best what they need. That’s not for government to decide.
“Initiatives like this are not just about providing practical help to those who need it most – they are an expression of our values and of the kind of country we are seeking to build.”