ALMOST half of parents in Scotland are already finding it harder to pay their bills ahead of looming energy costs and other rising prices.

A survey, carried out between November and December last year, found 46% of parents said it was more difficult to afford their bills.

The research, carried out for a coalition of charities, also found that 47% of parents were less able to save some cash for the future compared to the same time the previous year.

Meanwhile, around one in five parents in Scotland had experienced a reduction in earnings (22%) or working hours (18%) over the last 12 months.

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The research was carried out before the Bank of England warned the UK is facing the biggest fall in living standards since comparable records began three decades ago. It has sparked concern that families who were “just about managing” will now be “plunged into poverty”.

It comes after the energy regulator Ofgem revealed fuel bills will rise typically by £693 a year in the UK from April as it raised the price cap.

Clare Simpson, director of Parenting across Scotland, demanded more be done by ministers at both Westminster and Holyrood to help those who are struggling to get by.

She stated: “It is clear that the proposed actions to address the cost-of-living increases are totally inadequate. Both Scottish and UK governments must take immediate targeted action to ensure help reaches those who need it.”

She spoke out after Parenting across Scotland – a coalition whose members include Children in Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Scottish Adoption, and the Aberlour children’s charity – published the findings of the survey.

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Simpson said: “It is really worrying that even before the soaring energy bills, high cost of living increases and rising energy prices we’re facing now, families were finding it difficult to manage financially. It is concerning how widespread this is and means that many families who were ‘just managing’ are likely to be plunged into poverty.”

She insisted: “There is an urgent need for immediate targeted action from UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that families are protected from financial hardship.

“They need to put money in the pockets of the families who need it most; a rise in benefit levels in line with inflation would be the most effective way of doing this.”

One Parent Families Scotland said the “most straightforward” way the UK Government could help would be to increase social security benefits by 6% in April instead of the planned 3.1% rise.

Satwat Rehman, director of One Parent Families Scotland, said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic single parents have borne the brunt of the economic and social fallout.

“The Parenting across Scotland findings confirm that single parents have experienced financial hardship in substantially greater numbers than other families.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These findings show how difficult some families are finding things already, with those in vulnerable circumstances most likely to suffer the greatest impact of ongoing price rises and energy costs.

“The Scottish Government has provided £25 million to local authorities to tackle financial insecurity and a further £6m to third-sector partners to help low income families.

“We’ve also made £10m available to help people struggling with

their heating costs this winter – as well as introducing the Scottish Child Payment, which we are doubling in April.”