More than 150,000 vulnerable households have been helped by the Scottish Welfare Fund, it has been revealed today.
The fund consists of both Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants. Crisis Grants provide a vital safety net to vulnerable people in times of crisis or emergency, while Community Care Grants help elderly and disabled people to live independently in their own homes.
£65 million has been spent since the scheme began in April 2013, in the wake of the UK Government’s first round of hard-hitting welfare cuts.
105,000 households have since been granted Crisis Grants and 72,000 have received Community Care Grants.
The latest statistics, which break down grants between April 2014 to March 2015, show that 69,000 households received Crisis Grants averaging around £70, with most of these being for food and help in covering energy costs. They included:
- Almost £3.9 million of grants were given out for food – up from £2.4 million in 2013/14
- £23,000 was spent on nappies, an increase from £17,200 in 2013/14
- Nearly £1.3 million was spent on energy costs, up from £826,000 the previous year
43,000 households received Community Care Grants averaging around £600. These were predominantly awarded to people looking for help to stay in or set up their own home, or families facing exceptional pressures. They included:
- Nearly £7.2 million in grants awarded for the refit of carpets, up from £5.5 million in 2013/14
- Almost £8.2 million spent on cookers, washing machines and fridges, compared to £6.9 million in 2013/14
- Around £630,000 was spent on clothing and shoes, an increase of £90,000 from the previous year
Figures show that over a third of grants went to vulnerable people with mental health problems, lone parents, disabled people, or those suffering from a chronic illness.
Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess said: “These grants are a vital lifeline for people in crisis with more than 150,000 households benefitting from a share of the £65 million Scottish Welfare Fund.
“It is helping people in desperate situations buy everyday items like food, shoes and beds, and keeping them afloat during worrying times.
“The Scottish Government will continue to work with councils to publicise this scheme and reach those who are struggling to be able to afford items that many of us take for granted.
“While the UK Government presses ahead with its austerity agenda and continues to widen the gap in inequalities, the Scottish Government will continue to try to militate against the worst of the impacts of the UK cuts, including investing £296 million in mitigation schemes, extending our free childcare and encouraging employers to pay the Living Wage.
“As part of our drive to tackle inequalities we are also asking people for ideas on how we can create a fairer, healthier, happier Scotland where opportunities, wealth and power are spread more equally.”
Councillor Harry McGuigan, COSLA’s Community and Well-Being spokesperson, said: “There is a growing number of people using the fund to buy the most basic of items like food, beds and cookers.
“Councils and the advice sector make sure those in need know where to get this vital help. Given the planned social security cuts, the fund will come under considerable pressure as more people require help over the next few years.
“Councils are committed to providing the best support to those in need that we can, both direct financial help, as well as advice and referrals.”