A CHILDREN'S charity has warned that demand for help has soared by more than 1,000 per cent as thousands of Scottish families have come forward for the "basic essentials that are needed to survive".

Scottish children's charity, Aberlour, which provides emergency grants to families living in poverty, has handed out support to more than 2,000 families since March.

Data from March 19, just before the county was forced into the original lockdown, and July 20, Aberlour was inundated with 1,511 applications for support – compared with 134 in the same period in 2019. Analysts from Heriot-Watt University concluded that "this is an increase of more than 1,000 per cent in families making applications to the fund for hardship".

Over the four-month period during the lockdown, Aberlour handed out help to families worth almost £375,000.

Almost half of all applications came from Glasgow with the charity providing help for more than 700 families in the city – while applications were submitted from 31 or Scotland's 32 local authority areas.

Aberdeenshire was the only are where applications were not submitted to the charity.

Across Scotland, a total of 900 families have applied for help since March so they can feed their children, with a further 753 applications seeking money to deal with heating bills.

Aberlour has received 432 applications for help with children's clothing, 321 for bedding and 143 for baby supplies.

Report author Professor Morag Treanor from the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University said: "What is striking here is that all of the applications made to the Urgent Assistance Fund were for basic essentials that are needed to survive.

"This demonstrates that there is a level of need across families in Scotland that is really quite fundamental and absolute, and on a higher scale than we have seen for some time."

Sue, a mother-of-six from Falkirk, turned to Aberlour after her family struggled with bills when her husband was furloughed during lockdown.

She said: "I was embarrassed about what people would think when I started using the food bank, and on top of that with the whole family at home and a new baby to keep warm our utility bills were much bigger than before.

"I just felt hopeless. The help we got was absolutely fantastic. I can't think how I would have done it without Aberlour."

The report said help was needed because of "debilitating changes to family situations as a result of Covid-19".

Some families were not eligible for the furlough scheme when lockdown started and lost their jobs as result.

Others were "told, incorrectly, that they were not entitled to furlough payment and spent several weeks with no income until the situation was rectified".

Some of those who were self-employed did not meet the criteria for receiving financial help.

While some families applied for Universal Credit, this has a five-week waiting time for money to be paid out.

SallyAnn Kelly, chief executive of Aberlour, said: "When the lockdown started, we feared that it would have a devastating impact on families living in or on the edge of poverty.

"This has sadly proved to be the case.

"While our services have continued to support children and families throughout Scotland, and our supporters have donated magnificent sums to our Urgent Assistance Fund, we need to continue to raise more money to sustain our vital work and reach more families at risk of falling through the cracks."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We recognise the challenge that many families are facing as a result of the Covid pandemic and backed by an initial £350 million package of communities funding have made significant investment to support people impacted.

"This includes investing £57.5 million in the Scottish Welfare Fund, making over £80 million available for Discretionary Housing Payments and introducing a new Self-Isolation Support Grant.

"We have also made over £130 million available to tackle food insecurity, including extending the provision of free school meals in school holidays to Easter 2021, and made £20 million of flexible funding available to local authorities to tackle financial insecurity over the winter months."

He added: "We remain absolutely committed to tackling child poverty head-on, with applications for the 'game-changing' Scottish Child Payment opening on November 9, ahead of the first payments made from February 15 for eligible children under six.

"The Scottish Child Payment, together with Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods, will provide over £5,200 of financial support for families by the time their first child turns six.

"For second and subsequent children this will provide over £4,900."