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Huge demand for crisis grants

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
Huge demand for crisis grants

EVERY day 18 people in poverty seek an emergency crisis grant in Dumfries and Galloway, it has been revealed.

Thousands of families and individuals struggling to put food on the table have reached out to the council for cash support.

A total of 5021 applications for a crisis grant were received by the local authority in the first nine months of this financial year – with many more expected in the final three months.

This equates to around 18 pleas per day and two cases every working hour.

The shock figures were included in a welfare and benefits report tabled at the council’s communities committee last Thursday.

“This makes for a depressing report when you read just how many people are having to access the various support funds that we make available,” said Councillor Willie Scobie as he pored over the stats.

Referring to the energy price rises announced last week, Stranraer and the Rhins Councillor Scobie added: “People will not be able to afford this, and we’re going to go further and further into poverty.”

The council report detailed various options available to assist people struggling to make ends meet, such as discretionary housing payments, self-isolation support grants, and council tax reductions.

However, the council also administers crisis grants via the Scottish Welfare Fund.

The report states: “Crisis Grant spend is predominately to provide cash to customers for food and household fuel.”

A breakdown of the figures for 2020/21 showed that most crisis grant applications were made by people living in North West Dumfries, followed by Stranraer and the Rhins, Nith, and then Annandale South.

A total of 1159 claims were made by North West Dumfries residents last year, of which 774 were approved.

In Nith, there were 336 awards from 529 claims, while 370 payments were approved following the 517 claims made by Annandale South householders.

The average crisis grant payment ranged from £83 to £113 across all areas in the region.

Lorna Campbell, the council’s financial wellbeing and revenues manager, explained how crisis grants are assessed and how payments differ.

She said: “The award for someone with a crisis grant is based on what they need at that time, and their household make-up.”

Crisis grants are available to people aged 16 or over, 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.”

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