Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart has urged the Scottish Government to explain why the Scottish welfare fund was so underspent.
Ms McTaggart made her call during a debate at the Scottish Parliament on the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday December 16th. She voiced her broad support for the general principles of the Bill but also raised some reservations.
In 2013 the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) was underspent by 12 per cent; it handed out grants totalling £29 million in 2013-14, which amounted to only 88 per cent of the £33 million that was available. Scottish Government figures show that more than 82,000 crisis grants were paid out to 56,000 households, while 36,000 community care grants were awarded to 33,000 applicants.
Ms McTaggart, in agreement with a report published by Heriot-Watt University, spoke about the need for greater awareness of the fund through information materials provided to local government departments, third sector agencies and Jobcentre Plus. She also stressed the need for guidance to be issued to staff on awarding discretionary grants in order to ensure that people are treated equally across the country.
Speaking in the debate Ms McTaggart said “The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill is vital to many of my constituents in Glasgow. Although I am broadly in agreement with the aims of the bill, in order to ensure that the SWF operates properly in the coming years, the Scottish Government must clarify why there has been a repeated underspend. It should also address the concerns that I have expressed, in order that the bill fulfil its principal aim, which is to provide through crisis grants a safety net for people on low incomes during a disaster or emergency.”
You can read Ms McTaggart’s speech here.