A GROWING number of people in Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire are being forced to ask for emergency aid to help feed their family and heat their home.

Latest figures show a sharp rise in the number of applications for crisis grants.

Since the Scottish Welfare Fund was set up by ministers in 2013, more than £173million has been handed out to those in need across the country, to help with the cost of essential items.

In East Renfrewshire, applications were up by a whopping 52 per cent in the three months between April and June this year, compared to the same period in 2017.

This was the biggest rise of any local authority in Scotland and saw East Renfrewshire pay out £9,272 in crisis grants over the quarter.

There has also been an increase in the number of applications in Renfrewshire, where the total rose by three per cent, with £129,650 paid out.

Applicants in both areas generally received around £70 to help with the cost of food, heating, nappies, toiletries or household products.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It is a sad fact of life for many families that an unexpected expense can completely disrupt a carefully-managed household budget.

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“People should never have to face a choice between eating or heating.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund was created to provide a vital lifeline for people in times of need, allowing them to cover the everyday necessities.

“And while I am pleased that the fund has been able to help over 300,000 households across the country since its start, I am dismayed that so many people find themselves in the position of needing to access emergency help.”

More than a tenth of those applying for a crisis grant in April to June needed to help because of a delay in benefit payments.

Ms Somerville added: “As the UK Government persists with the roll out Universal Credit, forcing more and more families into poverty, we are going to continue to see an increase in people needing such support. Scotland will have lost £3.7 billion in welfare benefits a year by the end of this decade.

“The Chancellor’s announcement of extra funding towards Universal Credit does not get close to mitigating the damaging impact of this policy and families will still have less money in their pockets and a minimum five week delay before getting Universal Credit.

“Therefore we will not stop calling on the UK Government to halt the roll out of this fundamentally flawed system. We are spending over £125m this year alone trying to allay the very worst effects of the UK Government’s harmful welfare cuts and protect those on low incomes.

“As a government we will always do what we can to support hard pressed families who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to make ends meet.”