More need emer­gency cash

The Oban Times - - News 7 -

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.

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