Support for families in Wales facing emergency financial crisis due to Covid- 19 must be continued beyond the deadline, according to The Children’s Society.
Ahead of a debate, set to take place in the Senedd on Wednesday, the charity is calling for the Welsh government to continue the flexible approach in distributing the discretionary assistance fund (DAF) beyond 31st 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 an institution, these Individual Assessment Payment (IAP) grants cover a one-off expense.
In May in response to the coronavirus the Welsh Government invested an additional £11 million into the DAF and relaxed the criteria for accessing the support scheme, which usually allows one award every 28 days, a maximum of three times a year.
This approach is due to stop at the end of July, but Welsh government data shows there is a clearly huge level of demand for the scheme and this is unlikely to slow down. Between 18 March and 2 July 2020 33,642 Covid-19 related Emergency Assistance Payment were awarded, totaling over £2million pounds.
In comparison for the whole of 2018/19, 58,934 awards were handed out for both EAP and IAP, with a total value of £10.5 million.
The reasons behind the applications include having to stop or reduce work, a delay between applying for and receiving a benefit claim and increased energy or food costs due to families all being at home.
Azmina Siddique, Policy Manager at The Children’s Society, said:
“We know the coronavirus has had a devastating effect on many families’ incomes leaving them struggling to pay the bills and feed their children. These funds provide a lifeline to those that desperately need it so it is vital this flexible approach – that makes it much simpler for people to get financial support – should be kept in place for longer. Without it families already facing incredibly stressful situations will be left with nowhere to turn and be more likely to become destitute.”