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‘Unacceptable’ number of Scots need help to pay for heating and eating

Campaigners spoke out after the latest statistics from the Scottish Welfare Fund were published.

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The amount spent on crisis grants to help people with the cost of heating has increased by 15% (Peter Byrne/PA)

The amount spent on crisis grants to help people with the cost of heating has increased by 15% (Peter Byrne/PA)

The amount spent on crisis grants to help people with the cost of heating has increased by 15% (Peter Byrne/PA)

Struggling Scots received more than £2.2 million in emergency cash grants to help with the cost of eating, heating and other basic expenses over just three months, new figures have revealed.

In the period July to September last year the Scottish Welfare Fund paid out £1,420,179 to help people feed  themselves and their families – 5% more than the same period in 2017.

Grants to help with the cost of heating rose by 15% to £461,948 – while there was a 100% increase in payments to help struggling parents buy nappies, with the fund awarding payments totalling £16,512 for this.

Awards for other living costs for July to September totalled £355,022.

Across Scotland a total of 316,095 households have received cash from the Scottish Welfare fund since it was set up in April 2013 – with grants up until the end of September 2018 totalling £181.6 million.

The fact that nearly a third of a million households in Scotland have required help from the Scottish Welfare Fund is a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on welfare cuts.Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville

A total of £5.8 million was paid out in community care grants – which help people to live independently – between July and September 2018, with this cash going to 9,495 people.

Over the same period 28,950 crisis grants were awarded, totalling £2.4 million.

Overall, the number of people applying for this form of emergency help increased by 4% from July to September 2017, with a total of 44,530 applications made for crisis grants.

In eight local authority areas the number of people asking for help increased by 20% or more – with a 75% increase recorded in East Renfrewshire and a 55% rise in Clackmannanshire.

In this area, Scotland’s smallest local authority, the number of crisis grants handed out increased by 84% while in Angus there was a 71% increase in people receiving funds.

Campaigners at the Menu for Change organisation – which sees charities including Oxfam Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland and the Poverty Alliance working together to tackle food insecurity – said the latest welfare fund statistics were “extremely concerning”.

Research and policy officer Mary Anne MacLeod, said: “It’s absolutely unacceptable that in a wealthy country like Scotland such large number of people simply don’t have enough money to heat their homes or put food on the table.”

She added: “What’s worrying is that the safety net which is supposed to catch people – the Scottish Welfare Fund – has had its budget cut in real terms year on year.

“The Scottish Government must urgently address this shortfall and make sure the Scottish Welfare Fund has the support and resources it needs to help prevent more people from being pushed further into poverty.”

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “The fact that nearly a third of a million households in Scotland have required help from the Scottish Welfare Fund is a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on welfare cuts.

“While it is absolutely right that we should help those individuals and families who find themselves in dire financial straits, it is appalling that so many find themselves in that position in the first place.”

With 11% of crisis grant applications being made because of a delay in benefit payments, Ms Somerville stated: “The figures also highlight the very real consequence of the UK Government’s maladministration of UK benefits system.

“Delays and errors in payments are forcing people to turn to the Scottish Welfare Fund to get them through immediate hardship.

“That is why we will provide local authorities with £33 million in the next financial year – to support hard pressed families who, through no fault of their own, need help to simply get by.”

PA