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Scottish Welfare Fund reports record number of repeat applications

(Jane Barlow/PA)
(Jane Barlow/PA)

A record number of Scots have had to make repeat applications to a fund that provides emergency cash, with the cost-of-living crisis cited as one reason for the rise.

The Scottish Welfare Fund paid out almost £20.4 million in crisis grants in 2021-22 – 2% more than the previous year and the largest amount ever.

With awards averaging £115, a total of 176,880 grants were awarded over the year.

That is down from 188,470 in 2021-21, which was the highest total since the scheme was set up in 2013.

But a Scottish Government report showed that a record 80% of those applying for the grant last year were making a repeat application – up from 70% in 2020-21

“This is the highest proportion of crisis grant repeat applications in any year since the start of the Scottish Welfare Fund,” the report said.

Repeat applications to the scheme, which helps people in emergency situations, “decreased slightly” to 56% over the period April-June 2020.

But since then there had been “a relatively steep increase” with 84% of applications in January this year coming from someone who had previously asked for help.

“This likely reflects the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the increases in the cost of living seen in recent months,” the report said.

The most common reason for people applying for a crisis grant was classed as “emergency – benefit/income spent”.

This was the case in more than two-fifths (42%) of applications in 2021-22, although this was down by 9% from the previous year.

Since it was set up by the Scottish Government in April 2013, the Scottish Welfare Fund has provided help to 470,170 households – with awards totalling £341.4 million.

A third of those who received help were families with children, the report revealed, while just over half were single people living alone.

The cash is distributed by local councils, who award crisis grants and community care grants to help people live independently.

In 2021-22 a total of £54.1 million was spent on the scheme, taking it over the estimated available budget of £47 million.

That includes £33.7 million on community care grants, with 48,095 awards made in 2021-22 at an average of £692.