MORE Wee County families have received a Crisis Grant than ever before – with one in six applying as a result of delayed benefit payments.

In the final quarter of the past financial year, 660 people applied for a Crisis Grant, equating to around 17 applications a week for Clacks households.

Of that total, 105 of cited a delay in benefits payments as the reason for their situation.

Crisis Grants are administered by the Scottish Welfare Fund and are given to help people deal with unexpected situations, such as fire damage, flooding, emergency supplies or basic living needs.

While Crisis Grants have gone up, Community Care Grants – the other pot run by Scottish Welfare Fund – have decreased in use since 2016-17.

Neither grant requires people to be on benefits, but being in receipt of one can increase the chances of a successful application to the Community Care Grant.

Keith Brown, the SNP's MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, described the fund as a "vital lifeline" for those facing poverty or personal crisis.

He said: "The fact that so many households in Clackmannanshire 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 described it as outrageous that the Scottish Government had to divert funds to protect people from Westminster's mess."

In turn, Conservative MP Luke Graham pointed out the number of Community Care Grants awarded locally, 285 in 2018-19, was down, while DWP spending in the area was slightly up.

He said: "Once again Mr Brown is selectively using statistics to score cheap political points rather than address the issues themselves.

"The DWP spent £150.3m on benefits in Clackmannanshire in 2017-18, a two per cent increase from 2016-17.

"Meanwhile, the number of Community Care Grants has actually being going down since 2016-17, with a 52.5 per cent decrease in that time, which shows that, combined, the measures being put in place by the UK Government are working in Clackmannanshire.

"While the number of Crisis Grants have gone up in recent years, they can be awarded to those not on benefits and are for addressing issues like when an unexpected crises happens, such as a fire or flood in your home, or if you're a victim of domestic abuse and you need help with things like moving away from an abuser, or if there is a dramatic change in your income due to redundancy."