The Scottish Welfare Fund provides crisis grants and community care grants for families facing chronic hardship. The first is intended for emergencies and crises affecting individuals or families which leave their health or welfare at risk, because of sickness or an accident, for example.

The second are aimed at people who need help to live in the community, often because they are setting up home - young people leaving care, older people coming out of hospital, women who have left abusive relationships or prisoners returning to the community are likely candidates.

But what help is a few hundred quid for a fridge if the rest of your home is empty or dilapidated? If you've fled domestic violence and you have a new flat but your children can barely go out because they’ve no clothes or money for activities?

The thinking behind a radical Lottery funded project by the trust Buttle UK was that a bit more generosity might help families make a more lasting change to their circumstances.

Buttle itself was in the habit of giving grants averaging £300 for household goods to give vulnerable children 'a fighting chance', but wondered what difference it might make if the grants were for five times that much. Since May 2014, the Connect project, has been testing that idea in Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire.

A report on the scheme, published this week, has concluded that it could be more cost-effective to try to make a more dramatic impact on people's lives, by combining more sizeable grants with committed support and, as it says, a little bit of imagination.

In one case, a mother fleeing domestic abuse was helped with new beds and bedding, school clothing and a grant for dance classes and a boxing club to help her children integrate and improve their confidence. Another single mother was given money for a cooker, vacuum cleaner, flooring and curtains as well as a travel pass and cookery lessons.

No-one asked for anything luxurious or unreasonable, the report says, and £299,834 was spent on grants to 227 families, averaging £1320 each and reaching 485 children directly.

The take-away from the project is in many ways obvious - tackling pervasive poverty needs more than a one off grant. Interestingly many of the professionals involved, used to the restrictions normally involved in such grants, were taken aback at the scope it gave them, with several saying they were getting involved in activities that were 'not part of their jobs'.

“Workers could not quite grasp that so big a grant might be made available to their clients, and that it could be used in a very flexible way,” the authors write. “The concept of using the award to offer families a wider service was difficult to grasp, and if not actually threatening to them, then definitely a challenge …it seemed almost as though workers were looking for permission of some kind from management to reshape how they approached a family with problems, and this is something which merits further exploration.”

The personalised service included a dedicated worker, whose role was partly to look at how the families involved could make lasting changes using the grants. "The process of applying for funding from us creates a significant opportunity to look at whether the family has a clear and realistic pathway out of their current problems," Buttle concluded.

A plea to stakeholders in the statutory and charity sectors to integrate the findings into their own approaches may seem unrealistic in the current climate. But the report is a thought-provoking read and Buttle UK intends to raise £20m over the next five years to continue to offer these larger grants.