An increase in applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund in Dumfries and Galloway has exposed the damage being down by the UK Conservative Government’s welfare reforms, according to South Scotland MSP Colin SMyth.

Figures released today (30 October) by the Scottish Government show that there has been an 11% increase in applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund in the past year. Up to the 30 June this year a total of 1,715 applications had been submitted compared to 1,545 at the same time last year.

The figures released today show that over £3.5 million has been awarded in grants to the most vulnerable people in Dumfries and Galloway.

Scottish Welfare Funds are split into two grants. Crisis Grants are awarded to low- income applicants after a disaster or emergency has caused a significant change in circumstances. Community Care Grants are awarded to help vulnerable citizens to set up home or continue to live independently.

Colin Smyth MSP is also concerned that there has been an 8% increase in the number of Crisis Grants awarded compared to the same time last year. Between January and June last year 1,595 Crisis Grants awards were made in Dumfries and Galloway – this year the number had increased to 1,750. This was during the introduction of the Full Service Universal Credit in the region.

Colin Smyth MSP said, “Applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund are made by some of our most vulnerable people. Successful applicants will be struggling on a daily basis to make ends meet and will be suffering from extreme poverty and deprivation, often caused by the UK Government’s welfare reform. The harsh reality is that poverty is on the increase in our region and the increase in applications to the Welfare Fund prove this.

In Dumfries and Galloway it is clear that the introduction of Universal Credit has resulted in many people being financially worse off. The increase in Crisis Grants awarded in the region show that the UK Government have unnecessarily pushed some of our most vulnerable residents further into poverty. By failing to pause and fix Universal Credit they risk pushing even more people further into poverty and again increasing the number of people in our region who rely on Scottish Welfare funds to continue to live independently and avoid homelessness.

This attack on our most vulnerable people from austerity and Universal Credit must be stopped. Only by properly investing in Social Care, introducing a Mary Barbour law to control private rents, properly funding local authorities and building more social housing can we tackle the causes of poverty and inequality and ensure that we eradicate poverty in our region.”

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