MORE than 800 crisis grants were given out to people struggling on low income or benefits in Argyll and Bute last year, according to Scottish Government figures.

The statistics reveal that a total of 1,400 payments were made from the Scottish Welfare Fund to people living in Argyll and Bute, consisting of 885 crisis grants and 515 community care grants.

In 2018/19, local authorities received 193,230 applications for crisis grants – 11 per cent more than the previous year – and made 125,155 awards, an increase of five per cent on the year before.

The average community care grant award across Scotland was £614, while the average crisis grant award was £83.

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The money helps people to live independently or provides a safety net in a disaster or emergency by covering essentials such as food, heating costs and household items.

Helensburgh’s MSP Jackie Baillie has called for more money to be given to local authorities for the Welfare Fund as demand is significantly increasing.

She said: “Despite increasing demand for the Welfare Fund, local authorities are being starved of the cash that they need to fund it.

“Poverty is rising across the country and thousands of families are reliant on food banks.

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“For many people crisis and community care grants are vital for helping to prevent them from falling deeper into trouble.

“It is crucial that the Scottish Government provide additional money for this fund, rather than cutting the budgets, to enable local authorities to continue helping those most in need.”

The figures were revealed just a day after a new report from the Social Metrics Commission said that one in five people in Scotland are living in poverty, with the level increasing over the past two years.

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Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital lifeline for many people facing poverty or crisis.

“The fact that so many households in Argyll and Bute are in need of emergency financial help is appalling, and a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on austerity and welfare changes.

“The SNP would prefer these resources were invested directly to tackle poverty rather than protecting people from Tory austerity.

“Indeed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty described it as outrageous that the Scottish Government had to divert funds to protect people from Westminster’s mess.

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“The SNP will continue to do everything in our power to tackle poverty and support low income families.

“It’s time for the Tories to end their austerity agenda and stop forcing Argyll and Bute families into poverty.”