Scottish Welfare Fund awards total more than £155m

More than 285,000 households in financial difficulty have received welfare assistance from the Scottish Government over the past five years, new statistics have shown.

Since its launch on 1 April 2013, the Scottish Welfare Fund has issued awards to 285,720 individual households totalling £155.8 million.

The statistics, which cover the period to 31 December 2017, showed that a third of households receiving a Scottish Welfare Fund award were families with children, while just over half were single person households with no children.

Since 1 October 2017 alone, local authorities received 15,240 applications for Community Care Grants, and awarded £5.5m for items such as floor coverings, furniture and kitchen appliances. During the same quarter, local authorities received 40,115 applications for Crisis Grants, and awarded £2.1m for items such as food and essential heating costs.

The majority of SWF awards come from Crisis Grants with around one in eight applications being made because of late or delayed benefit payments.

Jeane Freeman

Social security minister Jeane Freeman said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund provides a vital lifeline, supporting low income households experiencing emergencies and crisis situations. For many, it provides much-needed financial support for the everyday items that no one should be denied simply because of their hardships.

“It is unacceptable that people find themselves in these situations through no fault of their own. Under UK government welfare cuts, money is being taken from the pockets of low income families, pushing them into crisis, debt and poverty. The Scottish Welfare Fund is one part of the £100 million we spend annually to try and mitigate that and provide support to the people of Scotland at a time of need.”

Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said the figures “depict the daily struggles of tens of thousands of households across Scotland to make ends meet and keep a roof over their head”.

Alison added: “Harsh welfare reforms, the roll out of Universal Credit, zero-hours contracts, stagnant wages and the high cost of housing are behind these figures and cause ongoing misery and uncertainty and contribute to the growing levels of poverty in Scotland.

“While it is good news the fund exists and is a vital safety net for so many households – a third of them with children – much more needs to be done to resolve the underlying issues to create a fairer and more just society for everyone in Scotland.  Halting the roll-out of the flawed Universal Credit system until it is fixed and a major increase in the supply of truly affordable housing in places where people want to live would be a good start.”