MORE than 5,000 households in North Ayrshire had to turn to the Scottish Welfare Fund for cash help in the last year.

A total of £1,262,169 was handed out to 5,316 households in the area in the year 2014/15.

The fund, set up by the Scottish Government, hands out Crisis Grants, providing a safety net to low income households in a disaster or emergency – and Community Care Grants, which help people to live independently.

Grants from the fund are used to help vulnerable people pay for essentials like food and energy costs – and more than a third of the grants were made to households such as lone parents, people with disabilities or people with mental health problems.

Cunninghame South MSP Margaret Burgess welcomed the news that so many North Ayrshire families were helped over the year.

The SNP member said: “Vulnerable people in communities in my constituency and across Scotland are struggling to make ends meet in the face of a relentless assault on the poor waged by this Tory government – and these grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund are a real lifeline for so many people and families in North Ayrshire.

“These grants are a vital lifeline for people in crisis with more than 150,000 households benefiting from a share of the £65million Scottish Welfare Fund.

“The fund helps people who are struggling to buy essential items like food and clothing and to help pay for energy bills – and while it is worrying that so many local people are struggling to make ends meet, it’s absolutely right that the Scottish Government does everything it can to help, with 8815 people in North Ayrshire benefiting.

“The Scottish Government will continue to work with councils to publicise this scheme and reach those who are struggling to be able to afford items that many of us take for granted.

“Of course, Scotland should not be in the position of having to mitigate the social security cuts of a Tory government which people here completely reject – but until full social and economic powers are in Scotland’s hands, the SNP will do everything we can with the powers we have now to protect and support vulnerable people suffering from Westminster austerity.”