Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Communities Committee will meet virtually on Tuesday 9 February and as part of the agenda will receive a report on the impact Covid-19 has had on those claiming benefits through the Council.
The report details that the number of housing benefit cases being worked on by the dedicated team has reduced by nearly 800 from a year or so ago, as people transition to Universal Credit. Indeed, the statistics back this up with over 4,000 now in receipt of universal credit now compared to shy of 3,000 in late 2019.
It isn’t just universal credit that the team have been assisting clients with obtaining though. A steady rise in council tax reduction cases coinciding with the major lockdowns we have faced as a region/country alongside the free school meals assistance offered has led to both areas of assistance showing good take up. During the festive holidays, our Council made a £45 payment to all families in receipt of school meals, meaning more than 3,500 children received the financial equivalent of free school meals during the holiday period.
Crisis Grants have also seen an increase as a result of Covid-19. This financial year, 6,171 crisis grants were made to the Council, with awards being made is nearly three quarters of cases. The Self-Isolation grant has also been accessed by many in the region as cases of Covid-19 has increased, with £84k being paid out between 168 individuals who required the assistance to assist them during isolation.
Homeless applications have also risen, with around the same number being recorded for this current financial year compared to the entire financial year of 2019/20. The team continues to work with various landlords to proactively manage caseload and get as many people as possible out of the homeless situation and into a warm place of residence to shelter, eat and sleep.
Chairman of Communities Committee, Councillor Andy Ferguson said of the report;
“If you were in any doubt about the impact of Covid-19, take a look at some of the stats in this report. The level of support our staff provide to those who need their help the most is absolutely exceptional and I wish to place on record my thanks to the staff across the region for their dedicated approach to assisting our residents who need our help during this pandemic.”
These feelings were echoed by Councillor John Martin, Vice Chairman of Communities Committee. John said;
“As Andy mentions, this report contains a lot of statistical data that shows the effects of Covid-19 in our region. More and more people are reaching out for assistance through one route or another. I would say to anyone who is struggling and needs some financial support – call us and we can help, that’s what we are here for.”
You can see the report in full at https://dumfriesgalloway.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s28349/Welfare%20and%20Benefits%20COVID%20Impact%20Report.pdf