Plans to create a duty to provide crisis grants for people on low incomes and to support independent living have been welcomed by the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.
In publishing its stage one report on the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill, the Committee recognised the benefits that a statutory Scottish Welfare Fund could bring. MSPs heard about how the fund is helping to improve local partnerships and build a greater understanding of the issues local people face. In order to offer greater support to these local people, the Committee has called for some changes to ensure that the funds are accessible to everyone that needs them.
The Bill sets out criteria for local authorities awarding grants, however submissions to the Committee raised some concerns that aspects of this criteria may have been drawn too tightly. The Committee has called on the Scottish Government to ensure that all vulnerable people in genuine need can access the fund.
The Bill would see a Scottish Welfare Fund set up to replace the Social Fund, abolished by the UK government in 2013. The Scottish Government has operated an interim fund since last year and the Bill seeks to put that arrangement into legislation.
Committee Convener Michael McMahon MSP said:
“We have heard from people directly affected by the UK Government’s welfare reform programme. These are not so-called ‘benefits scroungers’ but genuine people, often in low-paid employment, experiencing crises and emergencies. This Bill will enable local authorities to offer much needed assistance to people in real need of help. We have recommended some areas for improvement but overall, we support the Scottish Government’s work in this area.”
Deputy Committee Convener Clare Adamson MSP said:
“We welcome the Scottish Government providing much needed funding to support people who are going through really difficult times. We believe that this new scheme offers much needed reassurance for local authorities who will now be able to look beyond the interim scheme and develop firm resources, expertise and knowledge in taking forward the new welfare funds.”
For further details, please visit the Committee’s webpages.