NEARLY 3,000 crisis payments have been given to people in Inverclyde who are in dire financial straits.

Shocking new figures show that the Scottish Welfare Fund has now made more than 3,500 payments to help with daily essentials.

There were 2,745 crisis grants which helped provide food, cover heating costs and household items.

A total of 1,015 community care grants were also paid.

Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan says the amount of local people living on the breadline is a scandal.

He said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund is a crucial lifeline for many people facing poverty or personal crisis.

“The fact that so many households in Inverclyde are in need of emergency financial help is appalling, and a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on austerity and welfare changes.

“The SNP would prefer these resources were invested directly to tackle poverty rather than protecting people from Tory austerity.

"Indeed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty has described it as outrageous that the Scottish Government had to divert funds to protect people from Westminster’s mess."

Mr McMillan says the Tory government in Westminster must end austerity to tackle the poverty problem.

He said: "It’s time for the Tories to end their austerity agenda and stop forcing Inverclyde families into poverty.”

His party colleague Ronnie Cowan MP praised the Scottish Government for supporting low income families.

He said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund has been of vital importance to households in Inverclyde, many of which are suffering due to UK Government austerity and those on Universal Credit having to wait at least five weeks to receive any payments.

“My constituency office regularly supports constituents where individuals and families are left without welfare support due to UK Government policy, such as losing their severe disability premium or transferring from DLA to PIP and receiving a lower rate of payment.

“As well as the Scottish Welfare Fund, the Scottish Government are taking a number of other actions to alleviate poverty and mitigate the effects of UK Government welfare reforms. They have increased the Fair Food Fund to £3.5 million in 2019-20.

“The Scottish Government will continue to work hard to tackle poverty and support low income families.”

The UK Government said: “Tackling poverty will always be a priority for the UK Government. More people are in work in Scotland than ever before with wages continuing to outstrip inflation, rising at their fastest in over a decade, and income inequality and absolute poverty are lower than in 2010.

“But we recognise that some families need more support, which is why we continue to spend £95 billion a year on working-age benefits.

“Meanwhile, Scotland has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”