A WINTER coat supplement is to be added to school uniform grants as part of efforts to help Fifers with the cost-of-living crisis.

The possibility of freezing council taxes and council house rents next year is also being looked as the Kingdom prepares itself for the bleak financial struggles over the coming months.

Councillor David Ross, leader of the council's minority administration, said they were doing what they could to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

Those eligible for school clothing grants will receive an extra £50 as a winter coat supplement – at a cost of around £870,000 – while work will also continue to review the practicality and cost to extend the eligibility of free school meals.

"We need to do what we can in practical terms and that is important that we do try and target those most in need," he said.

"There is a need, quite clearly, to be flexible and recognise this will develop over the winter and the autumn months and that we may need to adjust our approach.

"If there is big pressure on hardship funds, we might have to be prepared to address that and put additional funding into that."

Additional support will include the provision of "warm spaces" – where people can go over the winter – as well as the provision of hardship grants and work to ensure Fifers are claiming all the benefits which they are entitled to.

Local foodbanks will also be supported, along with community food providers who are seeing a fall in donations.

Members of Fife Council's cabinet committee were given an update on work being carried out at their meeting on Thursday.

A report to members revealed that the latest figures for Fife showed that 17.3 per of children in Fife (13,724 aged under 16) are living in relative poverty (less than 60 per cent of median household income) before housing costs while 9,047 children (14.1 per cent) are living in absolute poverty before housing costs.

Michael Enston, executive director (communities), explained that work was ongoing to help identify those most in need with approaches such as happened during the coronavirus pandemic likely to be adopted to help.

"A co-ordinated effort between the council and other organisations is needed to help people manage through this winter," he explained.

"The area-based People and Place groups were established following the successful operation of local multi-agency working during the pandemic. While there is considerable scope to improve joint working arrangements, these groups are well placed to oversee provision and impact across an area.

"It will be important to maintain short lines of communication between local work and staff and overall leadership, to ensure resource allocation, address any barriers or issues and to support staff to take decisions and act on issues.

"Flexibility will be needed to respond to issues as they arise and potentially to shift funding across the different provisions outlined in the previous section.

"The challenges of the coming winter are not certain and, as with the pandemic, there will be a need to quickly build on what works best and to shape responses to unforeseen challenges."

Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay councillor David Barratt welcomed the report but expressed concern that help would not be available quickly enough.

"We should have been discussing this months ago," he said. "There may well have been discussions on the cost-of-living crisis. Realistically, we will not have the support delivered in time for everyone that needs it but we are where we are."