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Politics: Cost of living is having an impact on health

By David Porter

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The final few weeks of working from Holyrood are upon us as MSPs get ready to head back to their constituencies for the Summer recess.

As the Convener of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee I have been busy hearing evidence about a number of issues impacting people across the country including the impact of health inequalities due to the coronavirus pandemic and the likely impact of the cost of living crisis.

I also recently met with the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport regarding my recent survey report to discuss further work that can be done to help support workers in the energy sector.

The meeting was incredibly positive, and it was clear that the Scottish Government is keen to assess both the challenges and opportunities that there are for workers who want to move from oil and gas to renewables.

I was also pleased to ask the Cabinet Secretary for Education about the roll-out of counselling services in schools across Aberdeenshire and Scotland.

This was something I called for a few years ago and I am glad to see it has now been delivered.

The roll-out comes after recent work by the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee and our inquiry into the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

The committee made a series of recommendations including the importance of early intervention in protecting children’s mental health.

The inquiry found the coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated challenges for young people living in deprived communities and disadvantaged areas having a direct impact on their mental health.

The work of counsellors in supporting young people through adolescence is vital particularly as the pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues for so many of them.

I am pleased to hear counselling services specifically for schools are now in place across all 32 local authorities.

This is an area of education support I have been passionate about for a number of years and it was through my direct liaising with the Scottish Government that this was made possible.

School counsellors help support young people’s emotional, behavioural and mental health.

Importantly, pupils will also have access to counsellors during school holidays, providing vital continuity of care.

The Scottish Government has also announced a guaranteed annual winter heating benefit of £50 which will be paid next year to around 400,000 households.

The payment will be paid for the first time in February 2023 and will be the Scottish Government’s 13th benefit and replaces the UK Government’s Cold Weather Payments.

This is particularly welcome as it was revealed that Aberdeenshire is ranked seventh in the UK. Households in Aberdeenshire are paying on average £2004 per year.

Out of 408 local authorities in Great Britain, Aberdeenshire came out as the seventh most expensive.

According to data from comparethemarket.com, households in Aberdeenshire are already paying 36.3 per cent more than the price cap that is set to be introduced in October this year.

The data also shows that people across Scotland are paying more on their bills than compared to England and Wales.

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