Cri­sis aid bids at record high

£3.5m paid out in area since fund’s launch

The Galloway News - - LOW-INCOME HELP - Stu­art Gille­spie

Record num­bers of peo­ple from the re­gion have ap­plied for cri­sis aid fund­ing.

There were more than 2,600 re­quests to the Scot­tish Wel­fare Fund dur­ing the first half of the year, com­pared to 2,370 in the same pe­riod 12 months ear­lier.

That re­sulted in nearly £120,000 worth of cri­sis grants be­ing paid out to help low-in­come res­i­dents with liv­ing costs.

Chris­tine Sin­clair, the op­er­a­tions man­ager of Dum­fries and Gal­loway Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Ser­vice, said the rea­sons peo­ple ap­plied could in­clude de­lays to ben­e­fits.

She added: “This cer­tainly re­flects what we are see­ing.”

The fund was in­tro­duced by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in 2013 and is dis­trib­uted in two ways – com­mu­nity care grants and cri­sis grants.

Fig­ures out this week show that more than £3.5 mil­lion had been al­lo­cated in this way by the coun­cil since the fund’s in­cep­tion.

For the last quar­ter, 70 per cent of peo­ple seek­ing a cri­sis grant were re­peat ap­pli­cants, as were a quar­ter of those look­ing for com­mu­nity care grants.

A to­tal of 8,060 house­holds in the re­gion have been helped since the scheme was in­tro­duced.

By the end of June, the coun­cil had dis­trib­uted 26 per cent of the £868,230 it had avail­able un­der the fund, three per cent more than the same time the pre­vi­ous year.

Scot­tish so­cial se­cu­rity sec­re­tary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It is a sad fact for many fam­i­lies that an un­ex­pected ex­pense can to­tally dis­rupt a house­hold bud­get. Peo­ple should never have to face choose be­tween eat­ing or heat­ing.

“The wel­fare fund was cre­ated to pro­vide a life­line for peo­ple in times of need, al­low­ing them to cover ev­ery­day ne­ces­si­ties.

“While I am pleased the fund has been able to help more than 300,000 house­holds since its start, I am dis­mayed that so many peo­ple find them­selves need­ing to ac­cess emer­gency help.”

South of Scot­land MSP Colin Smyth added: “In Dum­fries and Gal­loway it is clear the in­tro­duc­tion of Uni­ver­sal Credit has re­sulted in many peo­ple be­ing worse off.

“The rise in cri­sis grants show the UK Gov­ern­ment have un­nec­es­sar­ily pushed some of our most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents fur­ther into poverty.

“By fail­ing to pause and fix Uni­ver­sal Credit they risk push­ing even more peo­ple fur­ther into poverty and again in­creas­ing the num­ber of peo­ple in our re­gion who rely on wel­fare funds to con­tinue to avoid home­less­ness.”

Ad­vice ser­vice Chris­tine Sin­clair

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