The Scottish Government has been accused of failing those most in need because its £150 grant to help with the soaring cost of living won’t be paid in a lump sum.
It’s instead showing as a deduction in annual council tax bills. That means people who pay by direct debit are seeing their monthly bills reduced by about £12 – far from the £150 injection of cash.
All eligible households, who are in Bands A to D, received letters by post last week detailing the payment arrangements.
But anti-poverty groups say the money should have been given as a one-off £150 payment to allow people to feed their families or heat their homes instead of clearing off their council tax bills.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “We think there were better ways of getting a £150 cash payment to families, particularly those on low incomes who are looking for immediate financial relief.
“We hope lessons can be learned by the Scottish Government so that any future support is provided by direct cash payments and make sure those who are suffering the most benefit the most.”
John said there are other tried and tested ways the money could have been paid directly, either by the councils or through the social security system.
The Poverty Alliance also called for the £150 to be paid directly. Its policy and campaigns manager Neil Cowan said: “People living in the grip of poverty tell us that cash payments in their pockets are the best way to protect them from deeper hardship.
“Councils should be providing direct payments instead of a council tax rebate.”
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced the one-off £150 Cost of Living Award last month.
Sean Clerkin, of the Scottish Tenants Organisation, said: “Many people are rightly unhappy about the fact they are not directly receiving the £150 payment, denying families the right to use the money for food, heating or clothing for children.
“We urge local authorities to pay this money directly.”
Scottish Labor social security spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy added: “People are facing hardship now – they cannot wait for dribs and drabs and a fiver a month off a bill. They need cash in their pockets.”
The Child Poverty Action Group wants councils to follow the example of Inverclyde, which is making a separate payment of £350 direct into the accounts of 10,000 struggling local families in addition to the £150.
Stephen McCabe, leader of Inverclyde Council, said: “It’s important we do what we can to support some of the most vulnerable in our communities.”
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The Scottish Government said the Cost of Living Award will help 1.85million households.
A spokesperson added: “The priority is to get help to people quickly and simply. Assisting with council tax bills is the most effective way to do that.”
Councils group Cosla said: “A credit to council tax accounts was local government’s most deliverable option to ensure it got out quickly to meet Scottish Government requirements.”