North Ayrshire Council blog on their approach to the cost of living crisis amongst island communities.
North Ayrshire Council has developed a reputation as a pioneer in supporting inclusive and green island economies in a way which recognises their distinctive strengths, opportunities and challenges. We have produced ten-year Local Island Plans for Arran and Cumbrae with a long-term strategic focus developed with and for the community, sitting alongside a package of support currently available to address the specific cost of living challenges facing the islands.
The cost of living challenge on Arran and Cumbrae
Across North Ayrshire, fuel poverty affects over 1 in 4 households, whilst 1 in 10 households experience food poverty. With high levels of economic inactivity and a child poverty rate of almost 30%, rising costs hit hardest for our poorest and most insecure households.
How people experience the cost of living crisis depends on where they live. A lack of precise data makes it difficult to draw upon any specific numbers to reflect the experience of island communities, but with poor access to the grid and high import costs, rural and island communities in Scotland face particular vulnerabilities around fuel and food poverty.
Additional transportation costs to bring goods to the island feed through to higher food prices than mainland UK, with high levels of food inflation therefore disproportionately hitting island communities. As recent Centre for Progressive Policy research shows, higher levels of fuel poverty in remote Scottish communities are mainly due to homes being larger, draughtier, and more reliant upon alternative fuel sources, which are unprotected by the Energy Price Cap. This leaves more households exposed to volatile markets.
To tackle the specific challenges facing our island communities, the Scottish Government has allocated £80,000 to Arran and Cumbrae through the Islands Cost Crisis Emergency Fund. Two place-based mini enquiries on the islands have allowed us to further specify the challenges for local island-based third and voluntary sector groups to tackle. The Council has committed a further £12,000 to support local island activity.
We have also funded EnergySmart, an existing service to support household energy efficiency measures and crisis grants; Money Matters, a service to provide welfare rights assistance to residents to ensure they receive their legal entitlement to state benefits; and school-based initiatives, including online after school study support, laundry services, and visiting specialists for children unable to visit the mainland.
A unique pilot to support long-term recovery and renewal
Beyond short-term measures, we need to deliver long-term resilience on our islands. We are supporting Arran and Cumbrae’s inclusive and green economic recovery and renewal through a unique three-year ‘Islands Recovery and Renewal’ Pilot, in partnership with the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The pilot directly facilitated the development of 10-year Local Islands Plans with and for the island communities. These provide an ambitious and long-term vision for Arran and Cumbrae, addressing long-standing challenges and maximising opportunities. They focus on developing inclusive and green island economies, with thriving, empowered and engaged communities, that support the principles of Community Wealth Building, as well as the transition to net zero and greater island sustainability.
To maximise the impact of the Plans and facilitate strengthened collaborative working across the island communities, Council services and partners, we recruited our first designated Senior Officer for the islands.
North Ayrshire Council is one of 14 members of the Inclusive Growth Network. To access further resources and learning from the network, click here.