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22 people a day claim crisis grants

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Front
22 people a day claim crisis grants

AN average of 22 desperate people per day sought an emergency crisis grant in Dumfries and Galloway last year as poverty levels soared.

Parents and individuals turned to Dumfries and Galloway Council for cash payments on 8030 occasions in 2022/23 as they struggled to make ends meet.

This was the highest number of applications in the past eight years – excluding the height of the pandemic in 2020/21 when there were 84 more.

Of those cases, 5536 grants were awarded, with an average of £94.81 dished in each case.

The shock figures are presented in a new welfare and benefits report due to be tabled at the council’s communities committee next Tuesday.

And Nith Councillor John Campbell said this week: “The need for support is clearly rising – and I think the situation is only going to get worse due to the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“People are struggling right now and they will be for some time yet. The number of people contacting their local councillors about poverty and the cost of living has increased.”

The report details the number of crisis grants applications and those awarded going back to 2015/16.

Since 2015/16 numbers have more than doubled. That year there were just 3693 applications for crisis grants, with 2504 approved.

Paula Doherty, the council’s welfare and benefits operations team leader, said: “During 2022/23 the Scottish Welfare Fund supported customers in Dumfries and Galloway to the value of £1,648,039. 8030 applications for a crisis grant were received from 3937 customers.

“This equates to an average of two applications per customer. 2591 applications for a community care grant were received from 2176 customers. This equates to an average of 1.2 applications per customer.”

Crisis grants are available to over 16s, on a low income, and unable to get financial help elsewhere.

“A crisis grant can be made when you’ve experienced some emergency or disaster and you have unexpected expenses that you can’t meet,” according to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

“The grant must be needed to prevent serious damage or risk to the health or safety of you or your family.”

No more than three crisis grants are to be issued to any person in one year, however the guidance does permit authorities to make awards in exceptional circumstances.

Last year, there were 53 cases where customers had more than three awards due to exceptional circumstances.

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