Amount paid out in crisis grants tops £3m over three months
The amount given in crisis grants increased by more than a third in one quarter as low-income families were provided with more than £3 million to cover emergencies.
New figures have revealed that the Scottish Welfare Fund paid out a total of £3.2 million in crisis grants between July and September 2019, 34% more than the same period the previous year.
The most common reason families said they applied for emergency funding was because their benefits or other income had been spent, with 25,245 or 49% of applications identifying this as the reason for applying – up 33% on the previous year.
Councils that have been particularly hard hit include Clackmannanshire, Fife, Glasgow, Dumfries and Galloway, Shetland and Scottish Borders, all of whom have seem increases in applications of over 25%.
Fife, Glasgow, Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Moray councils are all more than 10% ahead of their budget compared to last year.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said the figures exposed the need for reform to social security, and action on the cost of living.
CAS social justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green said: “The soaring numbers of people turning to the Scottish Welfare Fund for help should absolutely shock Scotland. People across the country are facing a crisis of income.
“Today’s figures show that more needs to be done to tackle the causes of income crisis, particularly reducing the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments and high deductions to repay debt that leave people without enough to live on.
“We’re also calling on the UK government to ensure that working people on Universal Credit get to keep more of what they earn.
“People who are struggling should know that their local Citizens Advice Bureau can check to ensure they are getting all the benefits they are entitled to, and if they could be paying lower bills for utilities and council tax.”
Estimates suggest the UK Government’s social security spending in Scotland is set to reduce by £3.7 billion per year by 2021. In addition, the benefit freeze and benefit cap are now in their fourth year.
Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “This is the latest evidence that the UK Government’s swingeing benefit cuts are hitting the poorest in Scotland hardest.
“The large increase in people applying for emergency funding shows how much those on low incomes are struggling just to make ends meet.
“The Scottish Government will not stand by and let people who are already in need continue to face a reliance on food banks and the stress of debt and rent arrears.
“That’s why we are continuing to spend over £100 million each year to mitigate the worst effects of the UK Government welfare cuts – part of the £1.4 billion we spent last year to support low-income households.
“This is money we should be able to invest elsewhere to help pull people out of poverty but we instead we need to use it to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.
“We are introducing the Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty head on which will start for eligible families with a child under six by Christmas. But there is no doubt that without the cuts inflicted on families by the UK Government this could go so much further.”