A SCHEME that helps hard-up families struggling to pay for heating and eating in Scotland has helped nearly a third of a million homes.

Since being set up by the Scottish Government in April 2013, the Scottish Welfare Fund has paid a total of £190.6m to 326,0875 householes. 

New figures show that in just the last three months of 2018 the fund paid out close to £2.5m in crisis grants – with 29,060 payments made in that time to help families with basic living expenses.

The National:

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the figures were "a sad indictment of the UK Government's record on austerity and welfare changes".

She continued: "As their welfare cuts continue to cause harm and damage, we continue to do our best to mitigate against them and provide financial support to low-income families and carers through new social security benefits.

"We are using our limited powers to ensure Universal Credit in Scotland gives people some control over their payments and our financial health check is providing personalised advice on money matters to help those on low incomes maximise their finances.

"That is why we will again provide local authorities with £38m in 2019-20 to support hard-pressed families who, through no fault of their own, need help to simply get by."

READ MORE: SNP: Scotland can't afford cost of Westminster welfare cuts

The fund's grants for food amounted to £1.4m – an increase of 15% from the same period in 2017 – while heating grant provision also went up by 25% total more than £520,000.

Payments for essentials like nappies, toileteries and other household products amounted to £17,000 which was a rise of 134% over the year.

Graeme Brown, director of the housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland, said: "It is clear from today's statistics that increasing numbers of households across Scotland continue to struggle to make ends meet and keep a roof over their head."

He added: "These grants are a vital lifeline for many facing job insecurity, zero-hour contracts, harsh welfare reforms, low pay and the high cost of housing."

Find out more about our 10,000 Steps campaign here.