Coalition of charities warn of ‘poverty crisis’ as they call on the Welsh Government to help families facing hardship
A group of charities are calling on the Welsh government to continue support for families and individuals facing financial crisis because of the coronavirus.
The Children’s Society and a number of other organisations have written to the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, warning him that the worst of the financial impacts of coronavirus are still yet to be felt by families and to urge him to extend the period of increased flexibility for accessing the Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF) beyond 31 July.
The DAF provides Emergency Assistance Payment (EAP) to help those hit by a financial emergency. The grants are designed to cover immediate essentials such as bills, food, clothing and transport in the wake of an unexpected disaster or family emergency.
The scheme also helps highly vulnerable groups such as care leavers or those leaving institutional care, through Individual Assessment Payment (IAP) grants cover a one-off expense.
The group have praised the Welsh Government’s decision to invest an additional £11 million into the DAF and allow greater flexibility for those trying to access the grants, which previously only allowed one award every 28 days, a maximum of three times a year.
Welsh Government’s own statistics show that this was the right approach to take. Between 18 March and 2 July of this year, there have been 33,642 COVID-19 related payments made, with a total value of £2.08 million. Most of these payments were made in June and July, after the introduction of the increased flexibility. The flexibility can be used to help those pushed to the edge by the Universal Credit five week wait by providing regular awards.
In comparison for the whole of 2018/19, a total of 58,934 awards were handed out for both EAP and IAP, with a value of £10.5 million.
The need is clearly there and the coalition are now calling for the Welsh government to continue this more generous criteria for the DAF to prevent families getting into problem debt. This Fund provides a vital lifeline for many and bringing back restrictions could exclude thousands of families and individuals from accessing financial help when they need it most.
Tom Davies, Senior Policy Officer for Wales at The Children’s Society, said:
“The coronavirus crisis has had devastating effects on many family incomes, but the worst may still be yet to come as the furlough scheme winds down and many face redundancies. Making sure that the DAF is more responsive to the needs of those facing financial emergencies was absolutely the right approach, but Welsh government’s plans to bring this to a close when a poverty crisis is looming on the horizon needs urgent reconsideration.”
“We hope the First Minster will not only look to extend the more generous approach, but also work with our group to address the wider causes of poverty in Wales and ensure that families emerge from this crisis on a stable footing.”
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