Scottish Welfare Fund has assisted over a quarter of a million households

Jeane Freeman

Jeane Freeman

More than a quarter of a million individual low-income households have received awards totalling £132.6 million from the Scottish Welfare Fund since its inception in 2013.

New statistics released today showed that of the 254,000 households helped to 31 March 2017, almost 137,000 were single person households and more than 84,000 were families with children.

The Scottish Welfare Fund comprises of Community Care Grants – which help people to live independently – and Crisis Grants, which provide a safety net in a disaster or emergency.

The most common reason for Community Care Grant applications is support to help people stay in the community – for example, where circumstances indicate that there is a risk of the person not being able to live independently without this help.

For Crisis Grants, the most common reason is emergency financial support where the individual has no money and there is immediate need.

In addition, in 2016 a new category of ‘Delay in payment of benefits’ was introduced. In 2016/17, just over 17,500 applications were made for this reason, accounting for around 10% of all Crisis Grant applications.

Social security minister Jeane Freeman said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund continues to provide a vital lifeline, supporting over a quarter of a million low-income households, who are suffering from emergency and disasters, in the last 4 years. For many, it provides much needed help for the everyday items that no one should be denied simply because of the hardship they face.

“This year we can now see clearly the impact of the UK government’s harsh welfare cuts and a system that is broken – with around 10% of crisis funding being needed to cope with the severe impact of benefit delays. We have repeatedly warned that the UK government’s chaotic roll out of universal credit, particularly the unreasonable six week wait for first payment, is having an adverse impact on people. So let me repeat again our urgent call for the UK government to listen to the real life impact of their policies and immediately halt its roll-out, or risk pushing more households into hardship.

“It is not acceptable in 2017 that people find themselves in these situations through no fault of their own. Nor is it acceptable that the Scottish Government is having to plug a gap created by the UK Government so that we can try to keep people from even further hardship. This fund underlines our commitment to put dignity and respect at the heart of our plans for social security. We will continue to do all we can to support hard pressed families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet.”

During 2016/17, a total of £34.7m was awarded through the Scottish Welfare Fund, this was 98% of the £35.4m budget available (£33m allocated for 2016/17 by the Scottish Government, plus £1.8m underspend carried forward from 2015/16, plus £0.5m additional funding from Local Authorities own funds).

Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said the sharp rise in crisis grants shows the human cost of Scotland’s housing crisis.

He added: “These funds provide a vital lifeline of support for many struggling households, but today’s figures are yet another sign of the human cost to Scotland’s housing crisis.

“A 15% increase in applications for crisis grants is 21,560 more households than last year needing help to keep a roof over their heads.

“Even more worrying is the 46% increase in the recorded reason for applying for a crisis grant as being ‘emergency – nowhere to stay and may resort to rough sleeping’.

“We know that high housing costs combined with low income and stagnant wages is pushing more and more households into poverty and putting them at greater risk of homelessness.

“This is why our Homelessness: Far From fixed campaign is calling for a new national homelessness strategy to ensure all our public services work better together to tackle and prevent the systemic problems that are causing homelessness.”

During 2016/17 eight local authorities provided additional funding to meet their local needs.

Community Care Grants

  • During 2016/17, 67,905 Community Care Grant applications were decided and an award was made in 42,775 cases. Overall, 63% of cases were successful, two percentage points lower than in 2015/16.
  • During 2016/17, Local Authorities awarded £25.4m in Community Care Grants, with an average award value of around £595, the most common expenditure was on floor coverings, white goods, and furniture.

Crisis Grants

  • During 2016/17, 164,965 Crisis Grant applications were decided and an award was made in 116,830 cases. Overall, 71% of applications were successful, the same proportion as the previous year.
  • Local Authorities awarded £9.3m in Crisis Grants during 2016/17 with an average award value of around £79. The most common expenditure was on food, essential heating costs and other living expenses.