Increasing numbers of Scots are seeking emergency grants to help with the cost of feeding themselves and their families, new figures have revealed.
In the three months covering July to September 2017 councils handed out crisis grants totalling almost £1.35 million to help buy food – an increase of 16% on the amount awarded for this at the same point in the previous year.
The most common reason for people applying for a crisis grant was for help with food, essential heating expenses and other living expenses – with the number of payments for food up by 25% when compared to July to September 2016.
Overall there were 42,760 applications made for crisis grants, which are part of the Scottish Welfare Fund, between July and September 2017 – an increase of 3% on the same period in 2016.
A total of 29,205 grants were awarded, worth more than £2.27 million.
When the cost of providing community care grants – which help people live independently but can also assist families facing exceptional pressure to buy major items like a cooker or a washing machine – was included, awards worth £8 million were handed out.
The figures were revealed in a new report from the Scottish Government, which showed that while the number of people seeking community care grants was “relatively stable”, applications for crisis grants are increased.
About 14% of crisis grants applications were made because benefits payments had been delayed, the report added.
Since the Scottish Welfare Fund was established in April 2013, nearly 276,000 households have received assistance.
The fund has an budget of £34.4 million for 2017-18 – with just under half (47%) of this having been by September 30, the mid point of the financial year.
But eight of Scotland’s 32 councils had spent more than half their budget by then, with 60% of money welfare fund money already allocated in East Dunbartonshire.
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund recognises the very real hardships that are being endured everyday by families across Scotland and is a lifeline for those struggling to get by.
“We know the impact the UK Government’s harsh welfare cuts is having on people and have repeatedly warned that the chaotic roll out of Universal Credit, particularly the in-built delay for first payment, is pushing more households into crisis.”
She said the Scottish Government had “limited powers” in this areas, but pledged: “We will continue to do all we can to support hard pressed families and individuals and remain absolutely committed to a welfare system that treats people with respect and dignity.”
Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said: “These figures show the need for real change in our economy.
“It is bitterly disappointing to see more people having to turn to crisis grants simply to be able to afford to feed themselves and their families in this country in 2018.”