Over 200,000 households given £98m welfare assistance in three years

Angela ConstanceMore than 200,000 low income households have received almost £98 million in grants through the Scottish Welfare Fund, according to official statistics.

New figures show that since the scheme was set up in April 2013, £97.9 million worth of grants have been given to nearly 204,000 households in Scotland, almost 111,000 of which were single people and over 67,000 were families with children.

The fund aims to help households during times of crisis, and can help them to buy everyday essential items like food, nappies or toiletries and to cover heating costs or other living expenses. Grants are also given to people facing disaster or emergency situations, such as flooding.

People can also be given support to live in their own homes where there’s a risk of homelessness or going into care or for families facing exceptional pressures – where funding can cover larger essential one-off items like washing machines or cookers.

Social security secretary Angela Constance said: “No-one in Scotland should be living in poverty, and it is crucial that we are able to give support to those most in need, when they need it.

“This can be especially important in times of desperation or emergency, or when people have been affected by delays in benefits.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund provides a vital lifeline to families during times of crisis, and helps people in desperate situations where they cannot afford to buy everyday items, such as food or nappies, that many of us take for granted.

“It is important this money gets to those who need it most, and that is why, from April this year, we have made changes to the way funding is allocated to local authorities, to ensure it reaches those people who most need it.”

Citizens Advice Scotland said that while the grants are welcome, they are not enough to address the country’s poverty crisis.

Susan McPhee, head of policy & public affairs at Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “The Welfare Fund is a vital form of support for many CAB clients, so we of course welcome the fact that people are getting that support. However, Scottish CAB evidence makes clear that, even with this support, too many people are experiencing a gaps in income which drive them into poverty.

“Last year, the number of Scots who came to their CAB seeking advice on how to get crisis support increased by 134 per cent on the previous year. In addition, we gave advice relating to foodbanks on over 7,400 occasions last year.

“These figures show that there’s plenty to be done in developing a social security system that is fair, equal and responsive. While the Scottish Welfare Fund grants are a key part in helping people through difficult periods, they are clearly not enough to prevent large numbers of people falling into poverty.”

The Scottish Government is currently establishing a social security agency to manage a host of benefits which will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

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