Local people in financial crisis are placing increasing demands on support services in Dumfries and Galloway, according to new figures.
Dumfries and Galloway councillors have received a stark update on the impact of welfare reform and the introduction of Universal Credit on May 16, 2018.
Data shows a sharp increase in applications for crisis grants, payments made to avoid serious damage or a serious risk to the health and safety of applicants or their families.
In December, the number of applications increased by 35 per cent compared to the same period last year.
The total spend in December 2018 was £35,781 – the largest monthly spend to date – with the trend set to continue in January.
With crisis grants processed as a matter of priority, less resource is available to process community care grant applications.
Councillors were also told that, based on demand and current criteria, the Scottish Government’s allocation to Dumfries and Galloway Council for crisis grants and community care grants of £868,230 would not be sufficient to sustain the number and level of grants.
Councillors had previously agreed to supplement the Government funding with an additional £150,000 of council funding. The leader of the council and both constituency MPs wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in October, highlighting the lack of funding made available to the council and stressing that vulnerable individuals were being financially disadvantaged.
Councillor Andy Ferguson, chair of the communities committee, said: “Prior to the introduction of Universal Credit, I wrote to the Scottish Secretary highlighting the concerns I had about the introduction of Universal Credit and its impact.
“Despite the assurances provided by the Scottish Secretary, the number of crisis grant applications are increasing and the knock-on effect is that people are having to wait longer for money that they are entitled to.
“I’ve said before about how concerned I am about the impact that Universal Credit will have on some or our most vulnerable people. Sadly, this is now proving to be the case.”
Councillor John Martin, the committee vice-chair, said: “It is essential for us to be able to deliver robust support to those affected.
“The team are working flat out to make sure that we do not leave people in crisis, especially when they need our support the most.”