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More Scots forced to ask for emergency handouts

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Emergency handouts are becoming relied upon by low-income Scots

Austerity continues to hit low-income Scots with new figures showing a 7% increase on applications for crisis grants.

Latest data from the Scottish Welfare Fund shows more Scots need emergency help, despite yesterday’s UK government budget announcement proclaiming austerity is over.

The fund provides either crisis grants - payments for one-off costs for new appliances or furniture – and Community Care Grants which help vulnerable people set up home or continue to live independently.

From 1 April to 30 June 2018, 9,415 community care grants and 29,645 crisis grants were made by local authorities, with the most common expenditure for a community care grant being floor coverings, beds and bedding.

For crisis grants, awards were mainly for food, essential heating and living expenses.

Shirley-Ann Somerville, Scotland’s social security minister, blamed Universal Credit as well as the UK government's austerity agenda for the rise in applications.

In a lengthy attack, the minister singled out the “fundamentally flawed” system for forcing families deeper into poverty, resulting in a rise in people seeking emergency help.

“As the UK government persists with the roll out Universal Credit, forcing more and more families into poverty, we are going to continue to see an increase in people needing such support,” she said.

“Scotland will have lost £3.7 billion in welfare benefits a year by the end of this decade.

“The chancellor’s announcement of extra funding towards Universal Credit does not get close to mitigating the damaging impact of this policy and families will still have less money in their pockets and a minimum five week delay before getting Universal Credit.

“Therefore we will not stop calling on the UK government to halt the roll out of this fundamentally flawed system.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said the figures are yet another sign of the human cost of Scotland's housing crisis.

"The fact that applications for crisis grants continue to rise – 7% up on the same time last year - shows the sheer scale of just how many households in Scotland continue to struggle to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads,” said Brown.

“Even more worrying is another huge increase - 69% - in the recorded reason for applying for a crisis grant as being ‘emergency - nowhere to stay and may resort to rough sleeping.”

A total of £173 million has now been paid through the Scottish Welfare Fund since its creation in 2013. Half of households receiving awards were single person households with no children, and one third of those households included children.