Applications for crisis grants leaps to almost 200,000
Applications for a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund have leapt to almost 200,000 in the past year, leading to calls for the Scottish Government to do more to tackle the cause of income crises.
Newly published figures show that the Welfare Fund received 193,230 applications for crisis grants in 2018/19 – an 11 per cent increase on the previous year.
The end of year report also shows that by 31 March the fund had spent its entire £35.3m budget for the first time ever, with £10.4m spent on crisis grants alone.
Crisis grants are provided to people to help cope with unexpected expenses arising out of an emergency or a disaster. They are paid through the Scottish Welfare Fund and distributed by local councils.
The report shows that some councils spent significantly more than others on crisis grants, with Dumfries and Galloway Council over-spending its proportion of the budget by 123 per cent.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) urged the Scottish Government to reflect on the cause of the surge in applications as well as to consider increasing the Scottish Welfare Fund budget.
CAS Social Justice Spokesperson Mhoraig Green said: “It should frankly shock people across the country that there was almost 200,000 applications for a crisis grant in Scotland in the last year.
“Today’s figures show that more needs to be done to tackle the causes of income crisis, particularly reducing the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments and high deductions to repay debt that leave people without enough to live on.
“More should also be done to increase awareness of the support available from the Scottish Welfare Fund, as well as reviewing whether the levels of funding are adequate to meet demand.”
Scottish Labour has hit out at the Scottish Government not increasing the Welfare Fund’s budget since 2013, leading to a real term decrease of £3.5m.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Despite increasing demand for its services, the Scottish Welfare Fund and local councils are being starved of cash by the SNP.
“With families using food banks and struggling to get by, this fund has never been more needed.
“Without additional funding from the SNP government this fund is in jeopardy, and it will be the most vulnerable people in our communities who will continue to lose out.”