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33% Surge In Applications For Emergency Welfare Assistance

The number of households applying for assistance from the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) has increased by 33% over the past year, according to new figures published today.

The Scottish Government established the SWF after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) abolished two elements of the Social Fund in April 2013.

Households facing a crisis situation can apply to local authorities in Scotland for emergency grants to provide a temporary welfare safety.

Scottish Welfare Fund Statistics to 30 September 2014 show that during the most recent quarter (July to September 2014):

  • 52,400 applications were made to the Scottish Welfare Fund, an increase of 33% on the same quarter last year.
  • 25,800 Crisis Grants were awarded, 32% more than the same quarter last year. These were predominantly for food, heating costs and other living expenses, with an average award value of just over £70.
  • 11,200 Community Care Grants were awarded, 51% more than the same quarter last year. These were predominantly for home furnishings and white goods, with an average value of just under £600.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Alex Neil said: “That anyone should be live in poverty in a wealthy country is completely unacceptable and we’ll continue to tackle poverty and inequality to create a more prosperous and fairer society.

“Scottish Welfare Fund grants are a lifeline for people in crisis to buy the everyday items, or cover basic living costs that so many of us take for granted. This is why we are taking steps to establish the Fund in law through the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill.

“120,000 households in Scotland, one in twenty, have now been helped by the Scottish Welfare Fund in its first 18 months of operation. The increase in applications over the last year is due, in part, to work done by local authorities and advice services to raise awareness of the Fund.

“We have allocated £33 million a year to the Scottish Welfare Fund to make sure that we continue to reach out to households in the most deprived areas – around half of awards are made to applicants in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland. Many families are paying a heavy price for the UK Government’s welfare reforms and this investment will help to mitigate the effects of these cuts on some of our most vulnerable households.”

SNP MSP Clare Adamson said: “The fact that the Scottish Welfare Fund is providing more help than ever before shows that people are now more aware of the support available to them.

“However it is a scandal that in a country as wealthy as Scotland, there are still so many people living in poverty – with an increasing number of hard-working families being forced to rely on food banks.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund is an important example of the kind of action the Scottish Government has taken using the powers it currently has to try and mitigate Westminster’s welfare cuts.

“But as long as welfare decisions remain at Westminster, Scotland’s least well off will remain at risk of further Westminster cuts.

“We need to be able to make our own welfare choices in Scotland, and the only way to secure these powers is by electing a strong team of SNP MPs in May.”

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