Warning that low-income families in Wales face a ‘perfect storm’ of financial insecurity this winter
Low-income families face a ‘perfect storm’ of financial insecurity this winter as government assistance is cut back and bills rise, a Senedd Member has warned.
Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru said that the end of furlough and cuts to Universal Credit would pull the safety net out from many families who had struggled throughout the pandemic.
She called on the Welsh Government not to scale back the Discretionary Assistance Fund they had used to support struggling families during Covid-19.
“Furlough is ending. Household bills are rising. Universal Credit is being cut by £20 a week,” she said.
“Low-income families are facing the perfect storm this winter of financial insecurity and being pushed further into poverty.
“In such a bleak economic landscape, and with Wales currently without the power, to ensure a fairer, more humane welfare system than that on offer from the Tory Westminster Government, the discretionary assistance fund is a vital source of support for thousands of families.”
The Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF) is Wales’ national welfare assistance scheme and provides a small cash grant for essential living costs (EAPs), and support to allow someone to live independently (IAPs).
The scheme was changed at the beginning of the pandemic to allow more people to claim financial support if they faced exceptional hardship as a result of lockdown, self-isolation or loss of income due to restrictions.
Almost 220,000 Covid-related small cash grants for essential living costs have been made via the scheme since March 2020.
However, the number of grants awarded through the DAF has decreased dramatically over recent weeks due to the Welsh Government’s decision to remove the Covid flexibilities at the end of June 2021 which made it easier for people to get support.
Sioned Williams, who is Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for social justice and equalities, urged the Welsh Government to continue with the additional flexibility for accessing the fund beyond the end of September.
“While the Welsh Government invested an additional amount of money into the DAF and made eligibility criteria for accessing the support more flexible in response to the COVID crisis, this additional flexibility is due to end in September,” she said.
“This is very concerning, given that people will continue to face financial hardship and crisis after this date, and for whom the DAF has provided crucial support during such an exceptionally difficult time.
“The Welsh Government have a duty to continue the additional flexibility for accessing the DAF beyond the end of September to ensure that those who need this support are able to access it to protect the most vulnerable from further poverty and hardship.”