A £1.2m cost of living support package was today, Thursday, August 25, endorsed by members of Scottish Borders Council.

Elected members agreed that the local authority dips into its reserves to help protect households facing financial challenges amid ongoing rising food and energy costs.

The action has been made possible as the result of a £1.4m council underspend in the last financial year – savings which were then placed in the council’s reserve fund.

Of that total the proposal is to allocate £585k to enable “immediate dispersion of financial support”.

This will include £235k towards warm clothing payments of £100 to each child entitled to either free school meals or clothing grants (amounting to approximately 2,350 children in the Borders).

A further £150k will go towards organisations such as the Citizen Advice Bureau and Changeworks to provide additional resources to assist with referrals, energy advice, money advice and budgeting.

Additionally, £100k will go towards topping up the Scottish Welfare Fund and £50k to do the same with the Discretionary Housing Payment.

Tweeddale East Councillor Robin Tatler, the council’s executive member for communities and equalities, described the measures put in place as a “comprehensive response”, while accepting that more financial support may be needed in the future.

He said: “I’m really proud that when we have a crisis, whether it be weather-related or the pandemic, we as a community and as a council have responded superbly.

“What comes across really loud and clear is that our partners in the Third Sector are absolutely determined that nobody is going to be left out in the cold when it comes to this crisis. Where help is needed help will be given to people. We may need to find more funding, we don’t know what the national response is going to be.”

Selkirshire Councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol, opposition leader on the council and champion for older people, highlighted further help that was available for older people, but which was currently not being accessed.

She said: “I want to put an appeal to all of you that as part of the process our older people are made aware of pension credits.

“Approximately £4.9m of pension credits are not claimed in the Scottish Borders, £4.9m which could go into older people’s pockets and could have a huge impact. I am quite willing to share with you Age Scotland’s ‘Check In – Cash Out’ freephone number because that money is there as well as everything we are trying to do as a council.”

The ‘Check-In – Cash-Out’ freephone number is 0800 12 44 222.