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Crisis cash pot looks set to be slashed

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Crisis cash pot looks set to be slashed

EMERGENCY funding that helps struggling Dumfries and Galloway residents survive the cost of living crisis will likely be cut in half next year.

Around 8000 crisis and community care grants have been dished out over the last nine months to help families and individuals heat their homes and put food on the table.

This money is available via applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund, which is provided by the Scottish Government and administered by the council’s welfare and benefits department.

This year’s cash pot for the region was £1.94 million – 62 per cent of which has been spent. This means that more crisis grants and community care grants will be approved over the remainder of this financial year.

However, £1 million of the £1.94 million pot included money that was carried forward from the previous year, along with separate government support funding in relation to the pandemic.

That extra cushion will disappear in the next financial year and there will therefore be a vast reduction in the number of emergency grants available.

A welfare and benefits update report, due to be tabled at the council’s communities committee next week, reads: “It is anticipated that there will be sufficient funds to meet predicted expenditure up to the end of the 2022/23 financial year.

“However, there is unlikely to be any funds available to carry over to 2023/24, given the current demand.

“Therefore, as it stands at present, next year’s available budget for the Scottish Welfare Fund is approximately £926,000, the Scottish Government allocation.”

A further report is to be brought back to the April 2023 communities committee for councillors to consider ways of managing the grants funding situation.

The severe flooding that hit Dumfries last month resulted in an influx of applications for emergency financial support.

By mid-December there had already been 5702 applications for crisis grants as residents struggled to heat their homes and put food on the table due to the cost of living crisis.

However, the worst flooding to hit Dumfries in 40 years, which came just weeks later, intensified the financial difficulties for some, according to the report.

It reads: “Crisis grants spend is predominately to provide cash to customers for food and household fuel. With the increased cost of living, there has been a rise in applications from customers in crisis citing increased food and fuel costs.

“Support continues to be provided at the maximum level available. Where customers are making application due to inability to afford fuel costs, referrals are made to support agencies, and a discussion is had regarding possible support from community care grants to reduce expenditure by improving energy efficiency.

“In addition, following the weather conditions at the end of December 2022, there has been an increase demand from some households affected by floods.

“Spend in relation to this is being monitored to assess the impact on the total available fund.”

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