More than 300,000 Scottish households have received emergency grants

Shirley-Anne Somerville

A total of 306,305 low income households in Scotland have been helped to pay for essential items such as food and heating through emergency grant funding since 2013.

A total of £173 million has now been paid through the Scottish Welfare Fund, which helps people during times of crisis with Community Care Grants to buy everyday essential items like food, nappies or toiletries and to cover heating costs or other living expenses. Crisis Grants are also given to people facing disaster or emergency situations, such as flooding as well as helping families facing exceptional pressure with one-off costs for items such as a washing machine or cooker.

Statistics show that from 1 April to 30 June 2018, 9,415 Community Care Grants and 29,645 Crisis Grants were made by local authorities, with the most common expenditure for a community care grant being floor coverings, beds and bedding, and kitchen appliances such as cookers, fridges, freezers and washing machines. For crisis grants, awards were for food, essential heating and other living expenses. This takes the total number of households helped to 306,305 since 2013 when the Fund was established.

Since the scheme began over half of those households receiving awards (54%) were single person households with no children, and one third of those households (33%) included children.

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville accredited the rise in applications to Universal Credit and the UK government’s austerity agenda.

Ms Somerville said: “It is a sad fact of life for many families that an unexpected expense can completely disrupt a carefully managed household budget. People should never have to face a choice between eating or heating.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund was created to provide a vital lifeline for people in times of need, allowing them to cover the everyday necessities.

“And while I am pleased that the fund has been able to help over 300,000 households across the country since its start, I am dismayed that so many people find themselves in the position of needing to access emergency help.

“As the UK government persists with the roll out Universal Credit, forcing more and more families into poverty, we are going to continue to see an increase in people needing such support. Scotland will have lost £3.7 billion in welfare benefits a year by the end of this decade.

“The Chancellor’s announcement of extra funding towards Universal Credit does not get close to mitigating the damaging impact of this policy and families will still have less money in their pockets and a minimum five week delay before getting Universal Credit

“Therefore we will not stop calling on the UK government to halt the roll out of this fundamentally flawed system. We are spending over £125m this year alone trying to allay the very worst effects of the UK government’s harmful welfare cuts and protect those on low incomes.

“As a government we will always do what we can to support hard pressed families who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to make ends meet.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, warned of a risk of an increase in rough sleeping.

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

“The fact that applications for crisis grants continue to rise – 7% up on the same time last year – shows the sheer scale of just how many households in Scotland continue to struggle to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads.

“Even more worrying is another huge increase – 69% – in the recorded reason for applying for a crisis grant as being ‘emergency – nowhere to stay and may resort to rough sleeping’.”

Graeme Brown added: “We hear every day how high housing costs combined with low income and stagnant wages are pushing more and more households into poverty and putting them at greater risk of homelessness.”