MINISTERS have announced an extra £45 million will be added to the existing Scottish Welfare Fund which makes community grants and crisis grants available to those in immediate financial need.

The sum more than doubles the current £35.5m fund, which is administered by local authorities. Councils will be given more flexibility in how it is used to ensure they can fully support people in financial crisis, including those working in the “gig economy”.

Responding to the Scottish Government’s announcement – part of a series of measures aimed at protecting communities from the social and economic impact of COVID-19 – Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “Our country is a compassionate one; we care about each other and want to protect one another from harm. The Scottish Government’s measures announced today in response to coronavirus reflect that, and are hugely welcome.

“In particular, the investment in the Scottish Welfare Fund will provide a lifeline for families struggling to stay afloat in the difficult times ahead. With so many unknowns about what is to come, we need keep close watch on the impact of these measures and what more can be done to support people and communities through this period.

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“The coming weeks and months will bring great challenges. Throughout this, we will continue to work with the Scottish Government, local authorities, civil society and community activists to ensure that our responses are equal to those challenges.”

The extra funding for the Scottish Welfare Fund is part of a wider £350m fund to support welfare and wellbeing.

Announcing the measures, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “This pandemic will disrupt lives like never before and cause financial hardship and negatively impact on our wellbeing. Be assured, however, that protecting and supporting people during these unparalleled times is the absolute focus of this Government.”

She added: “Our funding package will be focused on delivery, not bureaucracy or red tape. Local authorities, local businesses, community groups and the third sector know and understand the support needs of their communities the best. Where people and organisations have solutions or ideas, I want to hear them.”

“Unless we work with local partners the impact of our investment will not be felt by those that need it most. So my message today is – if we can help you to help the people of Scotland then we will.”