With little more than 48 hours to go before Brexit and cutting of ties with the rest of the Europe Union, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has succeeded in getting more than £450,000 in European aid to fight poverty and encourage social inclusion.

CnES succeeded in an application to the European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020 to extend its Western Isles Poverty and Social Inclusion programme to 2022.

The initial phase of the programme was awarded European Social Fund (ESF) grant aid of £240,000 and this extension has secured a further £455,198 which gives a total ESF grant of £695,198.

The programme is focused around financial inclusion and fuel poverty and support is provided to disadvantaged people living on low income, lone parent or jobless households.

The range of services provided include:

  • Tailored energy advice for individuals with concerns about high fuel bills and debt.
  • Referring and assisting individuals with applications to additional energy schemes.
  • Supporting individuals with applications to obtain benefits to which they are entitled but for various reasons are not currently accessing.
  • Assistance to individuals with their money management skills through debt advice, budgeting assistance and overall financial education.

Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, welcomed the ESF funding, “which safeguards this important service which is helping to address and alleviate fuel poverty and debt in the islands and realising tangible economic benefits for individuals and households throughout the Western Isles.”

The Comhairle’s Financial Inclusion service has dealt with over 500 referrals to date and has generated financial gains of nearly £800,000.

The Fuel Poverty service provided by Tighean Innse Gall in phase 1 provided a service to 46 households which generated a financial saving for these households totalling nearly £70,000, a percentage of which will continue annually.

The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds Programme. For further information visit their webpages or follow @scotgovESIF.