More need emergency cash
MORE people in the West Highlands are relying on emergency financial help.
The number of ‘ vulnerable households’ forced to apply for the Scottish welfare fund has increased by 60 per cent in the Highland council area and 37 per cent in the Western Isles since last year, a report released by the Scottish government has shown. Help required in Argyll and Bute has also risen by 10 per cent.
The fund consists of crisis grants, to help low income households in a disaster or emergency, and community care grants which help people live independently. Mostly used to pay for food and fuel but also for carpets, clothing and household appliances, 8,763 applications for the fund were made in the West Highland’s three council areas in the last year.
Margaret Burgess, the Scottish government’s welfare minister, called the grants a ‘ vital lifeline’.
She added: ‘The fund is helping people in desperate situations buy everyday items like food, shoes and beds.’
But Rhoda Grant, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, called the dramatic increase ‘ very worrying’. She added: ‘This shows that the current benefit system does not work well for rural areas. We know that fuel poverty is disproportionately greater in these areas because they are in the most part, off gas grid, depending on solid fuel, oil or electricity for heating which is much more expensive.’
The 60 per cent rise in the Highland council area is among the highest in the country, only surpassed by Fife, North Ayrshire and Stirling.