South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that people in crisis are facing a postcode lottery accessing essential support, after new Scottish Welfare Fund figures revealed huge differences between Councils in the south of Scotland.
Analysis of the payment of Crisis Grants in 2020/21 showed that the rejection rate and amount being paid vary wildly between local authorities.
The proportion of applications rejected ranged from just 29 per cent in Scottish Borders to 44 per cent in East Ayrshire, while the average award varied greatly, between £69 in the Borders and £126 in South Ayrshire.
Crisis Grants are provided to those on low income to help cover the costs of an emergency. For many, they have been a crucial lifeline during the pandemic. However, these figures raise concerns about whether everyone in Scotland has equal access to these important funds.
Colin Smyth said: “It’s unacceptable that whether you get access to essential lifeline support in the south of Scotland ends up coming down to a postcode lottery.
“Families struggling the most need money in their pockets now, as furlough comes to an end, and as the UK Government charge ahead with their plan to scrap the Universal Credit uplift that so many rely on.
“The Scottish Welfare Fund is a key way that the Scottish Government can help prevent poverty.
“There can be no room for variation in how it gets this money out to the people who need it the most. It is their responsibility to make sure Councils have the funding and the guidance they need to get this money in the pockets of those who need it, and they must do that, fast.
“It’s also a deep concern that so many applications for grants are rejected. It shows that demand for such grants outweighs the funding given to councils by the Scottish Government and as a result they need to use tough criteria to limit pay-outs.”