WEST Dunbartonshire council spent more than £200,000 between January and September 2019 on crisis grants, figures have shown.

Around £3.2 million was paid out by the Scottish Welfare Fund – a discretionary scheme administered by local authorities – to those in need during 2019 across Scotland, a 34 per cent increase on the previous year.

The most common reason families said they applied for emergency funding was because their benefits or other income had been spent.

Applications from 51,405 people were made for the emergency funds between July and September 2019, a 16 per cent increase on the previous year. Of those applications submitted, 33,275 were awarded, a 15 per cent increase on the previous year.

In West Dunbartonshire, the number of applications made from July to September 2019 was 1,335, with 1,080 of them being awarded. In total, West Dunbartonshire council spent £66,082 in crisis grants between July and September 2019.

Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton’s MSP, said: “This dramatic rise in applications in West Dunbartonshire and across Scotland for crisis grants is deeply worrying and highlights the strain our communities and local authorities are under in this time of austerity.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund has been hit with year-on-year real terms cuts since it was set-up, and these figures show the fund is at breaking point.

“I am clear – the SNP government must deliver the funding and resources that councils like West Dunbartonshire so badly need in this years’ budget. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have called on the SNP to work constructively with Scottish Labour in order to tackle the deep social problems that are driving so many men and women in Scotland to crisis grants.”

Shirley-Anne Somerville, social security secretary, said: “This is the latest evidence that the UK Government’s swingeing benefit cuts are hitting the poorest in Scotland hardest.

“The large increase in people applying for emergency funding shows how much those on low incomes are struggling just to make ends meet.

“The Scottish Government will not stand by and let people who are already in need continue to face a reliance on food banks and the stress of debt and rent arrears.”

“That’s why we are continuing to spend over £100million each year to mitigate the worst effects of the UK Government welfare cuts – part of the £1.4billion we spent last year to support low income households.

“This is money we should be able to invest elsewhere to help pull people out of poverty but we instead we need to use it to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

“We are introducing the Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty head on which will start for eligible families with a child under six by Christmas. But there is no doubt that without the cuts inflicted on families by the UK Government this could go so much further.”