CAS have welcomed the Scottish Government's injection of cash to the Social Fund - which is the vital 'last resort' service for people who need emergency money to cover costs such as food and housing.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said today that the new money will go to those parts of the Social Fund that are being devolved to Scotland.
CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says:
"This is an important announcement, as it will help to mitigate some of the damaging aspects of the current welfare cuts.
"There are many welfare changes that are hitting vulnerable people in Scotland, but the cuts being made to the Social Fund have been amongst the most damaging. The Social Fund is the ultimate safety net - the last source of emergency funding for people who are hit by a sudden crisis and literally can't afford to feed themselves or their children.
"CABs see many of these people, and in the past we have often been able to help them by arranging a crisis loan or grant from the Social Fund. But, due to the recent cuts, fewer people have been able to get this help. So they have had to rely on other sources of help - like charity food parcels.*
"If people can't get a crisis loan or grant, or are not given the full amount they need, they are pushed to seek other options. Charity food parcels are an option for some, but these are not available everywhere, and even where they exist they are not guaranteed. So people may need to turn to more worrying ways of getting the money they need, such as high interest loans - which of course will get them into a cycle of debt which will only make their situation even worse.
"We have been calling for the Social Fund to be protected, well-resourced and accessible to those who need it. Otherwise the most vulnerable people in the country will go hungry or get into debt, and possibly lose their home. Today's announcement is therefore very welcome, and will make a real difference to many families who are really in need. But of course this is only one step. We need to see more of such measures, aimed at protecting the most vulnerable people from these cuts. And indeed we need to see the whole of the welfare reform programme halted and significantly overhauled, so that these cuts are not made in the first place.
"Anyone who is struggling with their finances can get free, confidential advice from their local CAB. Times are tough, but no matter how bad your situation is, our trained advisers will do all they can to help you. For example this week we are running a huge information campaign to show people how they can cut their fuel bills. That's something that will help every household, so we urge everyone to access the information from their local CAB."
For more information, please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
* Last month CAS published a report showing there has been a very significant rise in the numbers of people who need emergency help and food parcels. The report showed that:
- Last year Scottish CABs referred 2,200 people to charitable support. That's more than double the number from 2 years ago.
- In 2011/12 one food-bank charity, the Trussell Trust, provided food parcels for nearly 130,000 people across the UK. That's more than double the number in the previous year. They estimate that half a million people a year will be in receipt of a food parcel by 2016,
Our report is attached. It clearly indicates that the changes to the Social Fund are one of the main reasons driving this increase, as most of the people who are having to go to food-banks would normally be helped by the Social Fund.
CAS believes that Charity Foodbanks are extremely worthwhile and do terrific work. But their role should be to support the state-run system.
Charities are - by definition - voluntary agencies. They don't have to exist, and they are not legally required to help people in every part of the country. What about people in areas where there is no food-bank? And in areas where they do exist, what happens if the charity stops running the service, or if demand becomes too great for them to cope with? We believe this kind of last-resort emergency help should be provided as a protected, statutory service. (i.e. the Social Fund). Food parcels provided by charities or churches will always be a welcome part of any community, but it is the state who should have the ultimate responsibility for providing a robust system of emergency support for those who are most in need.