"The Scottish Welfare Fund provides a lifeline of occasional support to those most in need and the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that it works in the best way possible. This is why we undertook a Review into the SWF, delivering on our commitment within the Bute House Agreement. The Review outlined a comprehensive evidence base for the Scottish Government to examine and identify improvements for delivery in partnership with stakeholders.
Today, I am pleased to publish the outcome of this work. The following Action Plan commits to 22 actions across 7 themes from the Review. These actions will safeguard the SWF and ensure that it continues to be a robust and reliable service for the most vulnerable in Scotland.
As the Review highlights, the increased demand for the SWF has been fuelled by the inadequacy of UK Government benefits, particularly within the context of the cost of living crisis. The Review highlights the critical importance of the SWF in providing emergency support, and we can be proud that we have the SWF to provide this vital safety net. To date, over £380 million has been paid to more than 500,000 households in Scotland. Following engagement with key stakeholders, I am confident that our Action Plan will address the findings and advance the areas for improvement identified in the Review. The Scottish Government will deliver these actions to improve the SWF alongside other policy initiatives to address the cost of living crisis and ease pressure on families across Scotland, despite the absence of necessary support from UK main benefits.
Within our fixed budgets and limited powers of devolution, we have transformed social security provision in Scotland. We are investing £5.2 billion in benefit expenditure in 2023-24, supporting over 1 million people. This includes funding for the Scottish Welfare Fund of £41 million. We are also investing £405 million in the Scottish Child Payment this year - the most ambitious child poverty reduction measure in the UK, with around 370,000 children eligible.
All Scottish benefits have been uprated in line with inflation by 10.1% to help meet the rising cost of living, and we have tripled our Fuel Insecurity Fund to support anyone at risk of self-disconnection, or those rationing their energy use. Over the past year we have allocated almost £3 billion to support policies which tackle poverty and protect people as far as possible during the cost of living crisis. These measures will all offer much needed additional support to families in Scotland, and they should also play an important role in easing some of the demand for the SWF so it can continue to meet its intended policy purpose.
The publication of this Action Plan demonstrates the Scottish Government's dedication to strengthening our social security system and working to best meet the needs of people in Scotland. The improvements that this Action Plan will bring to the SWF will help to build a fairer Scotland, working to tackle poverty in all forms."
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice
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