SNP MSP Margaret Burgess has described as “heart-breaking” news that the number of Scottish households struggling to even feed family members has trebled in the last year.
Mrs Burgess, Minister for Housing & Welfare, revealed that Scottish local authorities spent £9.3m between April and June this year attempting to alleviate the worst effects of UK Government welfare cuts. In North Ayrshire alone, more than 1,200 Crisis grants and 300 Community Care grants were paid.
Funded by the SNP Scottish Government, the aid scheme replaces Social Fund grants, which were abolished by the UK Government's Department for Work and Pensions. Crisis grants are paid to help people in an emergency, while Community Care grants are used to help those coming out of care. Grants totalling £980,000 were given to help cash-strapped households pay for food, which is three-times the total awarded for the same period in 2013.
Community Care grants were most commonly used to pay for household furnishings, such as cookers, washing machines and fridges. In addition, across Scotland, £130,000 in grants was made to allow people to buy clothes and shoes.
Margaret Burgess, MSP for the local constituency of Cunninghame South, said, “It is heart-breaking to see the impact of welfare reforms laid bare, with people coming forward and applying for help to buy everything from food to shoes to beds.
"It is totally unacceptable that in a country as wealthy as Scotland, people are living in poverty, unable to afford items many of us take for granted.”
Mrs Burgess noted that demands on the Welfare Fund are high as it seeks to help those in the country’s most deprived areas, adding, “That's why it is important we take forward our new Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill to set-out how welfare funds will operate within local authorities.
"We have already explained in the Scottish Government's submission to the Smith Commission that Scotland needs to have full responsibility over welfare and employment powers. Only full powers over welfare, employment and social policy will help us tackle poverty and allow Scotland to become a fairer country.”