Only about half the cash made available for “lifeline” grants has been handed out so far, it has been revealed.
• Around half of crisis funds set aside by Scottish Government for vulnerable goes unclaimed
• £3.5 million handed out to people at beginning of scheme as Nicola Sturgeon urges councils to help boost awareness of scheme
More than 20,000 people have received money from the £33 million Scottish Welfare Fund, with about £3.5 million handed out in the new scheme’s first three months.
But this is only about half the cash that was available for the period for April through to June, the Scottish Government revealed.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said councils were now working to boost awareness of the fund, which she said could help those who have been left struggling by “drastic welfare cuts”.
The Scottish Welfare Fund was set up when responsibility for the previous Social Fund transferred from Westminster to Holyrood.
The Scottish Government provided an extra £9 million for the new fund - which provides community care grants to help people live independently, as well as crisis grants - taking its total to £33 million.
The Deputy First Minister said: “Westminster has imposed drastic welfare cuts which will affect the elderly, the disabled and the unemployed. But Scotland will not turn its back on vulnerable people.
“We will take every step necessary to ensure that the poorest in society are protected during these tough economic times.
“These grants really are a lifeline to those in need. It is excellent news that the fund has already helped over 20,000 people.
“But it is vital that people know what support is available and how to apply. These figures show that there is funding for around 200,000 people in total.”
People apply to their local council for the grants and Ms Sturgeon said local authorities were “continuing to work in partnership with local voluntary organisations to boost knowledge of the new scheme through websites, local newspapers and word of mouth”.
She added: “We are doing all we can but we know that people are going to struggle because of the pressures from changes to the welfare system.”
Crisis grants can be made available to help people, usually those on benefits, deal with disasters such as as household items being damaged in fires or floods, and emergencies, for example money being stolen or someone needing to travel to visit a sick child.
Community care grants help people on benefits who may have to go into care unless they get support to stay at home, as well as those who are leaving care - including hospital, prison or a residential care home - to set up their own home.