With Parliament having returned following the summer break, my focus is firmly on pushing the UK Government to do more to support people with the cost of living.

At the very least, with winter approaching, they need to re-establish the £400 support payment to help avoid more people being driven into fuel poverty.

Inflation may have fallen a little but that doesn’t mean prices are dropping - just they are rising more slowly - which is why the cost of our weekly shop is still going up!

With the average monthly living costs for a family of four now estimated to be around an astonishing £4,000, many households are struggling to keep their heads above water, even with two wages coming in.

Before the summer recess, I called for Parliament to establish a Cost of Living Select Committee to enable MPs to examine the causes and consider possible solutions and mitigations.

The economic impact of Brexit, such as customs bureaucracy, supply-chain difficulties and workforce shortages, contributes to the UK being predicted to have the highest rate of inflation in Western Europe over the coming year.

While there was no interest from the UK Government, the Scottish Affairs Committee is currently looking at the greater impact of the cost-of-living crisis on rural communities due to even higher energy, food and transport costs.

This month, the inquiry took us to Arran where we met with local businesses and members of community groups to hear of their experience.

One very positive outcome was hearing about the Arran Strategic Plan, developed by multiple stakeholders, which creates a flourishing vision for the island community.

On a similar theme, I was delighted to meet a group of volunteers involved in running Floyd’s Café and Community Hub project in Dundonald, set up in response to the growing need to tackle isolation and loneliness during the pandemic and for support with the current cost-of-living crisis.

Having started in September 2020 with a foodbank, it now also provides a community café, information hub and walking groups.

It is run for the most part by volunteers, who have contributed over 3,000 hours of their time since the start, becoming an essential community service for many.

While the need for such a service reflects the tough times many are facing, it is wonderful to see the community come together in this way.

Having attended the Parliamentary event the week before, I was delighted to take part in the Macmillan Coffee Morning at Cumbrae Lodge Care Home.

It was a fantastic event with the traditional coffee and cake but also with the addition of live music and dancing, including the Marymass Marys joining in ‘The Slosh’, and all for such a great cause - Macmillan Cancer Support. My thanks to Lee, the manager, for the invitation and to all the residents and staff for their warm welcome.

Earlier in the month, I also had an interesting visit to Specsavers in the Rivergate Centre in support of Glaucoma Awareness.

As well as showing me their current optometry and audiology facilities, the team spoke about their plans to expand the shop with a view to increasing the NHS services they provide, particularly for those with hearing loss. My thanks to Lynsay and Gordon for taking time out their busy day. 

With autumn upon us, NHS Scotland has begun its winter vaccination programme and I would urge all those who are called for a flu and / or Covid vaccination, to take up the offer to protect yourself and those around you.

If you are unsure whether you are eligible, you can check at https://www.nhsinform.scot/covid-19-vaccine/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccines-youre-eligible-for