Money advisers fear the worst is yet to come as the cost-of-living crisis will continue into the winter, a charity has said.
Scots have been dealing with the highest spike in household bills in living memory, as well as a hike in national insurance payments and high inflation, prompting worries more could be pushed into poverty.
But a charity has warned the true effects may not be seen until the winter, as the cold sets in and creates a dilemma for the country’s poorest between heating their homes and paying for other goods.
Speaking before the Scottish Parliament’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee, Sarah-Jayne Dunn, policy manager for financial health at Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “At the moment, money advisers do have the feeling that they are firefighting and looking ahead knowing that the worst is yet to come.
“Whilst we are in the cost-of-living crisis, we are in the summer months, so people who are prioritising bills and having to decide if they put the heating on or put food on the table, they can be a little bit economical with their electricity usage or being able to turn off their heating.
“But when we get to those cold and darker months when things really start to feel that pinch, that’s when people are going to have to really think about ‘what do we have to do?’
“Because at some times, for clients in our network, they don’t have even a choice of heating or eating.”
Emma Jackson, the national director for Scotland at Christians Against Poverty (Cap), said people tend to wait until “things reach a point of crisis” before reaching out for help.
“There still, sadly, exists so much stigma and shame around debt and seeking help,” she told MSPs.
“But the types of issues that our clients are reporting to us are around food scarcity.
“A third of our clients at Cap would say that they regularly miss meals because they don’t have enough income, a quarter are reporting at the moment that they are skipping putting heating on – like Sarah-Jayne said – this is in the milder months.
“People are trying to minimise themselves – they’re trying to take every measure not to get into debt and not to fall further into debt.
“But sadly about 65% of our clients have said they have had to borrow from family or friends to afford food or fuel – really basic essential everyday items that we know that everybody needs.”