The region’s poorest families urged to take advantage of emergency cash grants

Thousands of people facing benefits cuts in Dumfries and Galloway have this week been urged to take advantage of emergency cash grants.

More than 8,000 families across the region could lose up to £86.67 a month after additional Universal Credit payments were axed on Wednesday.

Dumfries and Galloway councillors are concerned that this will result in low-income families struggling to be able to pay energy bills and put food on the table.

A social media drive has how been kickstarted by the authority to ensure that people affected are aware of available financial support, such as council tax reduction, discretionary housing payments, and grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Paula Doherty, the council’s team leader on benefits and welfare, said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund would be the first port of call for anyone who suffers a shortfall in finances that has an impact on their living costs – which is food and fuel.

“We would encourage customers who are facing a crisis caused by Universal Credit reduction, or any other reason, to make an application to the fund for a crisis grant payment.”

The issue was discussed at the communities committee on Tuesday when members heard how the local authority was trying to mitigate the impact of the UK government welfare cuts.

A report for councillors pointed out that, as of August 31, 2,606 applications have been received by the council for a crisis grant this year.

This is a 25 per cent reduction on the same period last year – and equates to only 35 per cent of the available budget being spent.

The report states: “As a consequence of the changes to Universal Credit and ending of furlough, an increase in applications for crisis grants, community care grants and discretionary housing payments is anticipated.”

Councillor Willie Scobie said: “This really is quite a dismal and depressing council report in terms of the number of people who are suffering poverty.

“That’s 8,344 families that will be affected by the removal of the £20 (Universal Credit) uplift, which really is quite concerning.

“Not only that £20 reduction but we’re faced with increased fuel charges in gas and electricity, and I just wonder how these people are ever going to make ends meet.”

Councillors sitting on the communities committee unanimously backed the financial support being given to mitigate the effects of Universal Credit cuts.

They also agreed to submit a request to the council’s finance, procurement and transformation committee for £100,000 to be allocated towards community food provision in 2021/22.

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