A POPULAR Christmas grant scheme that has paid out millions of pounds to pensioners and disabled people for the past three decades is to close.

The £220 million Shetland Charitable Trust will instead find new ways to target financial help at the most vulnerable island residents, such as young families struggling with poverty. In the meantime, the budget for paying out £300 grants this Christmas has been cut from £361,800 to £100,000. Trustees were told this should be enough to cover demand.

The trust itself insists the object of the changes is not to save money, and the budget could be increased if trustees see the need.

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A recent review of the scheme involving Shetland Islands Council's social work department and the local branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau found the money was not reaching the most needy.