HUNDREDS of people in the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area have benefitted from support from the Scottish Welfare Fund over the past year.

Statistics published this week show that the Scottish Welfare Fund made 4,680 payments to people in Fife during the last financial year - an increase of 8% compared to the same period last year and a many local people were assisted by the process.

A total of 490Community Care Grants and 4,190 Crisis Grants were awarded in Fife between April and June 2019, to help people with essentials such as food, heating costs, and household items.

The Scottish Welfare Fund was introduced by the Scottish Government in 2013 as part of a £125 million annual package to mitigate the impact of UK Government austerity measures. The Fund helps families and people in Scotland who are on low incomes through Community Care Grants, which support people to start to live, or to carry on living, a settled life in the community; and Crisis Grants, for disasters (like a fire or flood), or emergencies (like an unexpected expense).

Since its launch in April 2013, the Fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households across Scotland, with a third of those recipients being families with children.

Speaking this week Cowdenbeath MSP, Annabelle Ewing, said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital lifeline for many people facing poverty or personal crisis.

“The fact that so many households across Fife are in need of emergency financial help is appalling, and a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on austerity and welfare cuts.

“These are not just numbers, these figures represent real people in Fife whose lives are made a little less difficult because the Scottish Government has stood between them and the worst impact of Tory austerity".

She added: “The Scottish Welfare Fund is an important example of the kind of action the Scottish Government has taken using the powers it currently has to try and mitigate Westminster’s welfare cuts.

“However, we would prefer that these resources were invested directly to tackle poverty head-on, rather than protecting people from austerity.

“As long as welfare decisions remain at Westminster, Scotland’s least well off will remain at the mercy of the austerity agenda. Until those decisions are devolved, the SNP will continue to do everything in our power to tackle poverty and support low income families.”