THE amount of crisis grants paid out to struggling Scots has doubled since last year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

New data has revealed that nearly £4 million has been paid out in Scotland over the first two full months of the Covid-19 lockdown - double the £2 million paid out over the same period last year.

Figures covering April and May shows that 57,730 crisis grants were paid out from the Scottish Welfare Fund - a rise of 62 per cent in the year.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has called for a strengthening in the social security safety net in the wake of the new figures.

And Scottish Greens today called on the Scottish Government to ensure that emergency welfare support was adequately funded as those supported from the fund increased by 37% in May, compared to May 2019.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: "Over 1 million people in Scotland were living in poverty before Covid-19 and - as these alarming figures show - many more have now been pulled into crisis over the last four months. We cannot let this level of hardship continue and every level of government has a role to play in fixing this.

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"Putting cash in people's pockets is always the right approach to income crisis, so it was right that the Scottish Government increased the Scottish Welfare Fund budget at the outset of the pandemic. But it must now look at what more it can do to boost the incomes of people struggling to stay afloat.

"The UK Government can respond by scrapping the benefit cap and ending the five week wait for Universal Credit."

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said: “These figures highlight why the Scottish Government’s increased investment in the Welfare Fund was so vital, but too many people still end up at foodbanks or relying on charity handouts because they either don’t know about the Fund, aren’t able to access it or are refused assistance.

"It’s vital that local and national government work together to review the operation of the Fund and more widely promote the support it can provide.”

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CAS social justice spokesperson, Nina Ballantyne, said: "CAS welcomed the additional £45m of funding for the Scottish Welfare Fund announced by the Scottish Government in March. The increase in applications shows that was the right call and will have helped many people avoid total destitution.

"As news of increased redundancies spreads, local authorities, the Scottish Government and the UK Government can further support those facing hardship by strengthening all parts of the social security safety net: making Crisis Grant applications easier and payments faster; and ending the five week wait for Universal Credit by making advance payments non-repayable.

"The Citizens Advice network in Scotland is open and ready to support people through this time. Anyone experiencing financial hardship can contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau for free, independent and confidential advice."

Scottish Greens parliamentary co-keader Alison Johnstone MSP said: "Today’s figures confirm what we already suspected, that there is massive pressure on safety net schemes like the Scottish Welfare Fund.

“With more people than ever before applying for emergency help due to huge and unforeseen pressures on their household income as a result of Covid19, we need to ensure that the Scottish Welfare Fund is well-resourced and flexible so that it can assist everyone who needs help.

“In the coming months, the Scottish Government must work closely with councils to assess the pressures on local welfare funds, provide additional funding where necessary, ensure that support is easily accessible by those eligible and claims are processed and paid-out as quickly as possible.”