Welfare funding in high demand

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More than 3,000 Borders households are among the 80,000 helped by the Scottish Welfare Fund during its first year of operation.

New figures have revealed that Scottish Borders Council spent over 90% of its share of the £29 million Scottish Welfare Fund between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, providing 895 community care grants and 120 crisis loans to help families and individuals.

The biggest change to the welfare system for over 60 years saw community care grants and crisis loans abolished and the money, used as a safety net in a disaster or emergency, transferred to the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government then set up the Scottish Welfare Fund, a national scheme run by local authorities such as Scottish Borders Council.

When the welfare reforms were introduced in April 2013 it was feared that the Borders economy could be hit by as much as £10 million and the re-introduction of soup kitchens was talked about by some local volunteer groups.

More than 2,200 families in the region were expected to be affected and public bodies worked together to identify the most vulnerable members of society who would need help to cope with the changes.

Across Scotland 82,000 crisis grant awards were made, averaging around £70 per award to 44,000 single people and nearly 26,000 to families with children. Most of that was spent on food, essential heating costs and other living expenses.

During the first year of the Scottish Welfare Fund, 33,000 households received a total of 36,000 awards for Community Care Grants, averaging around £640 per award.

The awards were typically for white goods, furnishings and floor coverings.