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1 September, 2020 Open access

Poverty and Inequality Commission questions whether Scottish Welfare Fund has been used to maximum benefit during coronavirus pandemic

Highlighting that only 15 per cent of annual budget was used during first quarter of 2020/2021, Commission makes recommendations to enable Fund to operate more effectively

The Poverty and Inequality Commission has questioned whether the Scottish Welfare Fund has been used to maximum benefit during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Analysing Management Information on the Scottish Welfare Fund, the Poverty and Inequality Commission highlights that the total expenditure on the Scottish Welfare Fund in April, May and June 2020 was just  £8.6 million, representing only 15 per cent of the £57.6 million available for 2020/2021. Expressing shock that more of the funding available was not used to provide a lifeline for people experiencing hardship during the pandemic, the Commission sets out five recommendations the Scottish Government should follow to enable the Fund to operate more effectively - 

Urging the Scottish Government to take action to ensure immediate and rapid change in how the fund gets money into the pockets of those who need it, the Commission concludes - 

'During the course of our investigation of the Scottish Welfare Fund, we have identified some more fundamental issues with the fund. This pandemic provides us with the opportunity to tackle questions such as whether the fund is currently fit for purpose and whether the overall design of the fund, i.e. two types of grant offered for different purposes, is meeting the needs of those requiring its assistance...

It is also relevant that the statutory landscape has changed since the Scottish Welfare Fund was introduced. At that time there was not a national body which could administer the fund, hence local authorities were given the responsibility. We now have such a national body – Social Security Scotland. We have not yet reached a position on these issues but they are things we would like to discuss exploring further with the Scottish Government.'

The Scottish Welfare Fund briefing is available from povertyinequality.scot