Caithness Poverty Action Group

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Caithness Poverty Action Group is a network of statutory and third sector/charity organisations that pull together resources and knowledge around poverty concerns within Caithness, in order to create a structure of support for the Caithness community. Here you will find updates from CPAG and interviews with key community groups throughout Caithness offering advice and support on the cost of living.

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The Caithness Community Planning Partnership (CCP) recognises the widespread issue of poverty across Caithness. It identifies the need to work as a community to try to mitigate as far as possible the cost of living increases.  The Sub-Group will ensure we work collaboratively and consistently to raise awareness of poverty issues across Caithness.

The Sub-Group will champion a partnership approach, supporting an ongoing dialogue with a range of stakeholders including service users and service providers.

The Sub-Group will look to bring together the key delivery bodies from across Caithness, we will look to highlight current opportunities for individuals and where appropriate develop actions where gaps are identified.

The key outcomes of the group are to:




An interview with Sadie Kevill. Manager of Caithness Citizens Advice.

In this interview, Sadie gives an update on how to seek advice on energy costs, cost of living concerns and what other support is available.


You can skip to the part of the video which may interest you more.

0.00 – Introduction.

0.35 – Opening times & contact numbers.

0.45 – Key areas of advice: benefits advice, debt advice, energy advice.

1.42 – The support that is available around the cost of living.

3.00 – Referal services available for food security and energy vouchers/fuel costs.

4.05 – Services resuming after the pandemic.

An interview with Jule Calder. Project Development Manager of Ormlie Community Association.

In this interview, Julie talks about the support available and all the activities the centre holds weekly.

You can skip to the part of the video which may interest you more.

0.00 – Introduction

0.33 –  Employability service – Get It!

01.26 – Mums Group (informal or formal chat and children’s creche facility)

02.10 – Youth Group (Primary age children) Fun, Young & Involved.

02.33 – Youth Group (Teens).

02.50 –  Toddlers Group – Bibs & Burps

03.38 – Walking Group

04.05 – Art for Heart – Mindfulness art group

04.40 – Private Groups; Karati and Caithness Family Support Group.

05.08 – Mums group in Wick & walking group in Wick

05.36 – Silver Crafters – craft group for older adults

06.00 – Silver Social – Films/Burns supper/quiz nights

06.23 – Toddlers Group in Halkirk

06.39 – Baby Massage

06.55 – Digital access (laptops/printers/scanners)

09.29 – Telephone numbers for accessing support

Interview with Ormlie on the cost of living crisis and support available 

This interview has been separated from the original interview, it highlights the support Ormlie can offer around issues such as fuel poverty and food insecurity.



An interview with Stephanie Remers. Chair of Caithness Poverty Action Group.

In this interview, Julie Marker Project Coordinator of HERE for Caithness talks to the CPAG Chair Stephanie Remers, she gives an update on the work CPGA is doing and the different support available in Caithness.


You can skip to the part of the video which may interest you more.

00.00 – Introduction and overview of CPAG

01.00 – Home Energy Efficiency survey

001.53 – Issues concerning CPAG

03.40 – What support is available?

06.00 – Discussion

07.24 – How to get in touch

Community Support

You can click the title of the organisations to be taken through to their pages. 

Caithness Community Connections – Lybster

CCC provide food to Lybster on a regular basis.  This gets distributed to families in need, identified by staff and volunteers or school and recently to those isolating.

They also have a recipe pack that they can deliver.
Included in the packs

CCC has found that some people like the idea of reducing food waste and others take the pack as it supplements food in the home. Head over to their website for further information or email

Home Energy Scotland – Caithness wide

HES are able to offer advice on reducing energy costs and support on making warmer homes.

You can contact the Scottish Government-funded, impartial home energy advice service on freephone 0808 808 2282 or visit the website.

Thurso Development Trust – Thurso and surrounding areas

TCDT offer a wide range of support within Thurso such as

Thurso Eats The Sharing Shed Community Meals Community Support Wellbeing

The Sharing Shed is there for people to help themselves to free dry and tinned goods which are supplied free by local supermarkets and CFine/Fairshare Scotland.

In the Shed you will find:

It is a great way of resolving issues such as food waste and helping towards reducing our global footprint. Keeping food out of landfills not only conserves limited landfill space but also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Visit their website or email

Pultney Town Peoples Project – Wick

PPP provide support through NHS and CJS contracts and in recent years developed brand new care at home service, they also continue to provide childcare (all registered with the Care Inspectorate). They provide a very successful training facility with SQA approval. The Pulteney Centre houses a well-used community café and office, meeting and recreational spaces. They often run projects to support community members with hardship and have donations of clothing and food available at their centre. Visit their website or telephone 01955 608530

Ormlie Community Association – Ormlie Thurso

Ormlie Community Association offer a wider range of groups such as

They also offer advice and support around times of hardship. Visit their website, Telephone 01847 891789 or email

Caithness Citizens Advice – Caithness wide

CCAB are currently providing telephone and email advice. Appointments are available when further support is required. They are working on a wide range of campaigns to support the community

CCAB can help by

They also can provide support and advice to individuals facing financial hardship. Visit their website or telephone 01847 894243

Dunbeath Centre – Dunbeath

The Dunbeath Centre offers a range of activities such as walking groups, themed sit in lunches and takeaways at very affordable prices. They also have a Sharing Shack available stocked with free tinned and dried goods. The Dunbeath Centre can offer a wide range of support for its community members. Contact them through their Facebook page for further information.


The following link will take you to a map of Community gardens, larders and other food-related groups in Caithness. FOOD MAPPING








CPAG is working alongside its members and MSPs to campaign on the cost of living crisis. Here you will find updates, letters and challenges that have been put forward.

NHS Patient Milage Costs

During one of our CPAG meetings, an issue was raised over patient milage costs.  Rhoda Grant MSP wrote a letter to NHS Highland, to the right you will find their response. 

CPAG has requested Rhoda Grant further challenge the costings in their letter based on the following:

The following is the guidance around NHS Highland travel expenses –


Patient Travel Scheme – all NHS Scotland patients are entitled to help with travel costs if they are in receipt of certain income-based benefits. This assistance is not dependent on the distance travelled.

The Highlands and Islands Patient Travel Scheme recognises that patients who are residents in the Highlands and Islands may be required to travel significant distances to attend hospital appointments given the geography of the area. Under this scheme all patients from the former Highlands and Islands Development Board areas are entitled to financial assistance with their travel costs if they live more than 30 miles from the hospital they are attending.  Patients not on a qualifying benefit are required to pay the first £10 of any claim.  

The Patient travel schemes are not designed to fully reimburse patients for the full cost of travelling to attend an appointment but to provide a contribution towards the cost

If we look at the figures –

  1. NHS Expenses – Wick to Inverness return – 210 miles at 17p = £35.70 – £10 deduction leaves £25.70
  2. The HMRC mileage rate is 45p a mile.  The HMRC are not well known for its generosity but they consider that amount can be claimed tax-free for people making journeys using their own car.  Looking at the figures for our Wick to Inverness return trip would be 210 miles at 45p = £94.50.

As you can see the NHS rate of £25.70 is considerably less than the HMRC rate of £94.50 and the gap is significant. 

The facts here are simple – we in Caithness (and indeed those resident in Sutherland) are distinctly disadvantaged as we have suffered cut after cut to our local NHS services, and more and more people are being required to travel up and down the road to Inverness, and this is costing individuals and families substantial sums of money. In summary, services that should be accessible in Caithness, at Wick or Thurso, are not, and the unfortunate public is then expected to pick up the cost of that.  The cost of living crisis is impacting everyone including those not receiving benefits so there is no longer a justification for taking £10 off the claim. 

Looking at the figures it is clear that the allowance needs to be increased substantially. 

The full letter to NHS Highland can be viewed here – NHS Patient Travel Scheme

Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer – Cost-of-Living Crisis in the Highlands

Maree Todd MSP has sent a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The letter covers a lot of the issues CPAG had raised concerns on.

The Caithness Roads Recover issued the following statement to MSPs –

As we all know the current spiralling cost of energy is having a disastrous effect upon people throughout the Highlands, and indeed in all parts of the country.
CRR is playing a very active part in local action in Caithness, and is working closely with the Caithness Poverty Action Group – indeed many of you have kindly attended the recent meetings held by them.
There is a combination of both local initiatives (food banks, access to advice and charitable support, and so on) and a need for input and action at the Governmental level. CRR is concentrating on the latter approach.
The list of possible actions includes:-
1.   A windfall tax on large companies – the current profit levels are, in some cases, vast.
2.   A reduction in VAT on energy bills.
3.   A more substantial cut in fuel duty on-road fuels.
4.   More focussed “Community Benefits” from windfarm and other developers (At Planning Approval?)
5.   The formation of a “National Energy Company” to supply electricity and gas at a near-cost price.
6.   Increases in Universal Credit and other benefits to mitigate costs.
7.   A reduction in Income Tax.
8.   Emergency subsidies to consumers falling below a certain income level.
9.   Price capping on Heating oil / Biomass / Tank Gas.
10. Action to reduce the unfair distribution costs in the Far North.
These are suggestions which have arisen during discussions, and the list is by no means exhaustive. 
Clearly, we face a crisis – and a very real crisis. We have a few months before the onset of winter to find solutions and put measures in place. I fear that without action, many people will – literally – go beyond the stage of “Heat or Eat” and we will have deaths.
The two-part letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer can be found here –  Letter – Chancellor of the Exchequer – Cost-of-Living Crisis in the Highlands