Crisis grants worth £2.2m are paid to needy in Scotland

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image captionThe grants are paid out to people who are struggling to pay for basics like food

Emergency payments worth £2.2m have been paid to people in Scotland struggling to pay for basics like food and heating, according to a new report.

Scottish government statistics reveal that more than 42,000 applications for crisis grants were made between 1 April and 30 June - up 11% on last year.

Ministers said the "chaotic roll-out" of universal credit was to blame.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the "vast majority" of grants were given out for other reasons.

The latest Scottish government report found that 14% of applications for crisis grants were due to delays in benefits payments.

Around 68% of applications were successful and a total of 28,825 emergency payments were made in April, May and June - on average £75 each.

The payments came from the Scottish Welfare Fund, a national grant scheme which was set up in 2013.

It is run by local authorities who can give community care grants to people who need help to live independently and pay for items such as beds and white goods.

Councils can also use the fund to award crisis grants, which are are commonly used for food, heating and essential living costs in disaster or emergency situations.

The scheme has paid out £140m to more than 265,000 households since 2013, according to the Scottish government.

The Scottish Welfare Fund also found that in April, May and June:

  • 15,915 applications were made for community care grants - down by 8% on the same period last year
  • A total of 9,830 community care grants were made - on average £590 each - totalling around £5.8m
  • £8m was spent on community care grants and crisis grants - 23% of the £34.4m budget
  • Families with children accounted for a third (33%) of Scottish Welfare Fund support.

Scotland's social security minister, Jeane Freeman, blamed the roll-out of universal credit for pushing more families into crisis.

She said: "It is not acceptable that this type of support covering the basic costs of living is needed by so many people.

"This 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 six week delay for first payment, is pushing more households into crisis.

"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."

However, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pension disputed Ms Freeman's claims.

He said: "It's misleading to link crisis grants to delays as the Scottish government's own figures show the vast majority of grants it issued were for other reasons.

"The vast majority of claimants are paid in full and on time and advance payments and budgeting support is available for anyone who needs extra help.

"Meanwhile, the Scottish government now has significant welfare powers including flexibility over universal credit payments."

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