Hundreds apply for help as benefits shake-up bites

Almost 1,700 emergency grant applications have been submitted by residents in East Dunbartonshire over the last financial year.

Statistics from the local authority show that, between April 2013 to March 2014, £305,194 has been handed out through community care grants and crisis grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Eligibility for the grants is based on factors such as low income and a lack of other support availability.

More than two thirds of all applications were made by 
residents in Kirkintilloch and the surrounding areas.

Around 17.25 per cent came from Bishopbriggs and Torrance, while 4 per cent came from those in both Milngavie and Bearsden. Anne Burke, welfare reform adviser at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Kirkintilloch, believes the high number of grants is related to the swelling prevalence of stricter benefit controls.

She said: “It’s quite a harrowing time for some people. The majority of clients apply for these grants when they have no other source of money at all.

“A lot of it is to do with these sanctions. If someone fails to comply with the Job Seekers’ Agreement then they will have their benefits sanctioned.

“People can appeal against them, but it can take up to six weeks to resolve. In the meantime their benefits stop.

“Their only recourse then is to apply for emergency support like crisis grants.”

A total of 834crisis grants were awarded last year, totalling at around £54,217. At the same time, 334 community care grants were awarded, at a cost of £250,978.

Ian Black, director of finance at the council, said: “The council encourages all those who are struggling to meet their bills to seek help in managing their finances and to ensure that they are receiving all the income they are entitled to. There are a number of support services in place to support residents and to help them to manage their finances.”

For financial support, contact Citizen’s Advice on 0141 775 3220 or the council’s customer services on 0300 123 4510.