The Scottish Welfare Fund has paid out £4.4million to low-income households in the Falkirk Council area during its first five years.

A total of 17,520 local people received support in the shape of crisis grants or community care grants between April 2013, when the fund was created, and March this year.

The grants help struggling households to pay for essential living expenses, including food and heating, during times of crisis.

In 2017-18 alone, 2695 crisis grants averaging £82 each and 910 community care grants worth an average of £709 were awarded in Falkirk district.

Across Scotland, nearly 300,000 households benefited over the last five years from combined payouts totalling £164.8million.

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said: “The SNP Government created the Scottish Welfare Fund to provide a vital lifeline for people in times of need, ensuring that they can afford to pay for everyday essentials.

“While it’s comforting to see the level of support that has been provided by the Scottish Government to households in Falkirk district, the large number of people who have had to rely on this safety net is a shocking reminder of how the UK Government’s welfare and austerity policies are failing the most vulnerable members of our community.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund is an important way in which the Scottish Government is helping to protect people in Falkirk district who have been abandoned by the Tory Government in Westminster.”