Scottish Welfare Fund helps nearly 135,000 households

Margaret Burgess
Margaret Burgess

The Scottish Welfare Fund has helped nearly 135,000 households since the scheme began in April 2013, according to new statistics.

Figures from Scotland’s Chief Statistician covering the period from 1 April 2013 to 31 December 2014 found that around £56 million has been allocated during its first 21 months of operation.

Around 73,000 of the households helped were single people and 44,000 were families with children.

The Scottish Welfare Fund comprises of Community Care Grants – which help people to live independently – and Crisis Grants, which provide a safety net in a disaster or emergency. Between April 2013 and December 2014, around 63,000 households received a total of 71,000 awards for Community Care Grants, averaging around £600 per award. The awards were typically for white goods, furnishings and floor coverings.

Around 93,000 households – including around 22,000 households who’d also received Community Care Grants - received a total of 158,000 Crisis Grant awards, averaging around £70 per award. For Crisis Grants, most expenditure was on food, essential heating costs and other living expenses.

The number of applications to councils for welfare assistance rose by 13 per cent in the last year.

During the most recent quarter (October to December 2014) 23,715 Crisis Grants were awarded, 10 per cent 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.

Over the same period, 12,290 Community Care Grants were awarded, 15 per cent more than the same quarter last year. These were predominantly for home furnishings and white goods, with an average value of just under £600.

Welfare minister Margaret Burgess said the Scottish Welfare Fund grants are “a vital lifeline” for people in crisis.

Mrs Burgess said: “Since the Fund launched in April 2013, 135,000 households have received help to buy everyday items and with basic living costs including eating and heating. It’s so important that we continue to reach out and that’s why we are making £33m available this year to the Scottish Welfare Fund to help low income households.”

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland welcomed the news that so many people are getting the help they desperately need but said it is “deeply concerning” that 135,000 households have needed help in the first place.

Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said: “There are a number of reasons why people need crisis grants. One major contributing factor is the high cost of housing in Scotland and we know from the calls to our free national helpline that too many people are struggling to make ends meet.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital lifeline that people can access at their time of immediate need. We urge local authorities to ensure that householders who need help are given full access to it.”

Adam Lang added: “It is encouraging that awareness of the fund seems to have grown with more people accessing it. However, to tackle the root causes of housing related poverty, we need to build at least 10,000 more social homes per year for the foreseeable future.”

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