Low income families provided with more than £3 million in one quarter to cover emergencies.
The amount given in crisis grants to those most in need has increased by more than a third, latest figures show.
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 – up 33% on the previous year.
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.”
The Scottish Welfare Fund is distributed by local authorities and provides Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants. Crisis Grants help families on low incomes with unexpected expenses arising out of an emergency or a disaster. Community Care Grants help those on low incomes live independently in the community or to help people maintain their home in the face of exceptional pressure.
Since April 2013, Scottish Welfare Fund awards have been made to 357,350 unique households totalling £219.2 million. In total a third of households receiving awards were families with children.
From July to September 2019, there were 51,715 applications for Crisis Grants, a 16% increase compared to the equivalent quarter last year.
From July to September 2019, 51,405 Crisis Grant applications were decided and 33,275 awards were made (65% acceptance rate). Local authorities awarded £3.2 million in total, 34% more than the same quarter last year.
The most common reasons for Crisis Grant applications are different types of emergency (89% applications this quarter). Within the broader category of ‘Emergency’, the most common sub-reason was ‘benefit/income spent’ (49% of applications) which has increased by 33% (6,250 applications) since the equivalent quarter last year.
From July to September 2019, there were 19,220 applications for Community Care Grants, a 10% increase compared to the equivalent quarter last year. The main reason for applications remains ‘Families facing exceptional pressure’ (36% of applications). Local authorities awarded £6.1 million in total, 3% more than the same quarter last year, with an average award value of £581.