If you’re struggling to make ends meet as a family, there are a number of grants and loans available in Scotland that can ease the pressure, particularly if you’re on a low income or are in serious debt.
The Best Start Grant consists of three separate payments that help parents on a low income and receiving certain benefits to cover the costs of bringing up a child. If you’re eligible, you could receive: Pregnancy and Baby Payment
This is intended to help pay for equipment such as a pram, cot, or maternity clothes. An application can be made from the end of week 24 of your pregnancy until your baby is six months old. Early Learning Payment
The Early Learning Payment is designed to cover the cost of bringing up a child of pre-school age – perhaps paying for home learning equipment, books, or days out. School Age Payment
The School Age Payment is available to claim from 3rd June 2019, and is intended to help you pay for school-related items such as a school bag, educational day trips from school, or other extra-curricular activities. Applications for the Best Start Grant can be made online via the Scottish government website, by telephoning Social Security Scotland, or by post.
The Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) is part of a national scheme, and is provided by local authorities in Scotland. It helps people and families in crisis or in need of community care assistance. Again, money is provided by way of two grants, and so doesn’t need to be paid back. Crisis Grants These are designed for individuals and families on low incomes who are in the midst of a crisis – perhaps due to a fire, if their home has suffered critical damage, or in cases where money that was earmarked for bills has been lost or stolen. Community Care Grants Community Care Grants help families under serious pressure to limit disruption in the home in a practical sense, and maintain a settled home life. To apply for a Crisis Grant or Community Care Grant you need to contact your local council. The Scottish government currently allocates £38 million per year to run the Scottish Welfare Fund and if any local authority doesn’t use their full allocation the money is carried forward to the next year.
You may be eligible to receive cold weather payments if you’re claiming certain benefits, you have a child below the age of five living with you, or a child who is disabled. The cold weather payment timeframe is 1st November to 31st March. If temperatures fall below freezing for a period of seven consecutive days during these months, a payment of £25 is made for each period. Payments should be made automatically to your bank account within 14 days of the cold spell.
If you’ve claimed certain welfare benefits for six months, you may be eligible to apply for a budgeting loan from the government. These loans are interest-free and allow people and families on low incomes to pay for important items they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. These can include the costs of moving home for example, furniture, payment of rent in advance, property maintenance, improvements to home security, or costs associated with job-hunting, but this list is not exclusive. Loans start at £100 but you could be eligible for up to around £800 if you or your partner receives Child Benefit payments. Loans should be repaid within two years and are deducted from your benefits, with weekly amounts being dependent on your income. You can apply for a budgeting loan online or by using paper form SF500. If you’re successful you’ll receive a letter outlining the loan terms - if you agree the terms you need to sign and return the letter, and the loan amount will be credited to your bank account within around 12 working days.
If your family requires financial support, Scotland Debt Solutions can provide tailored advice on all of the above grants and loans. We also offer guidance on escaping debt using the various schemes available in Scotland, including the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) and Debt Management Plan (DMP)
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Although credit cards can be a useful financial tool when used correctly, interest rates of between 10% and 30% make it easy for debt to spiral quickly if spending is uncontrolled.
Our Scottish based team can help advise you on your debt problems.