33,351 people experiencing financial hardship accessed £2.36 million cash payments from the Welsh Government’s Discretionary Assistance Fund in December alone, according to new figures released by the Welsh Government.
It comes as the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt MS, urged people in Wales to check their eligibility for help from Welsh Government support schemes if they were facing financial difficulties.
Welsh Government figures show 200,000 people in Wales have been supported by the Discretionary Assistance Fund in the 2022-2023 financial year, with £23 million given out in grants.
The Discretionary Assistance Fund provides two types of grant that do not need to be paid back and is designed to help people in extreme financial hardship, people who may have lost their jobs, are waiting for their first universal credit payment or to help people live independently in a home they are moving into.
In the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2023-24, it announced an additional £18.8 million in funding for the Discretionary Assistance Fund to help during the cost of living crisis.
Jane Hutt MS said the Fund was just one of a raft of initiatives aimed at supporting people in Wales during the cost of living crisis.
The Minister has encouraged the public to 'claim what’s yours’ by getting in touch with Advicelink Cymru, who can offer advice and help to those who are struggling to pay their bills and check whether they can access support payments or benefits.
Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt MS said:
“This cost-of-living crisis, fuelled by soaring energy, fuel and food costs is unprecedented.
“The Discretionary Assistance Fund is one of a number of ways we are supporting people all across Wales through programmes and schemes that put money back in their pockets. These figures show it has been a crucial source of emergency help for many, and make it clear why we will not be making cuts to the budget.
“We will continue to offer help to those in need and I would once again urge those struggling to check whether they can access payments or benefits which could provide some comfort during these challenging times.”
Advicelink Cymru is a Citizens Advice targeted service for people most in need of advice services, funded by the Welsh Government.
Luke Young, Assistant Director of Citizens Advice Cymru said:
"Citizens Advice Cymru is here to help you find a way forward. We can check you are receiving all the benefits and payments you're entitled to. Many people are worried about rising energy costs and debt. Our advisors can point you to local and national schemes that could make a big difference this winter.
"If you're experiencing financial hardship such as losing your job or waiting for your first benefit payment or have no money to buy food, gas and electricity, the Discretionary Assistance Fund may be able to help you right now. Also, more people than ever are entitled to the £200 Wales Fuel Support Scheme which is money from the Welsh Government on top of UK Government cost of living payments - make sure you don't miss out."
Victoria Winckler, Director of the leading Welsh think tank, the Bevan Foundation, said:
“The Discretionary Assistance Fund is a lifeline for people in severe financial hardship. When there is nowhere left to turn, the DAF can help with money for food and heating, and other things.”
The Welsh Government has pledged £1.6 billion to address immediate pressures on living costs in Wales, including its fuel support scheme.
The initiative has seen 290,000 households in Wales receive £200 to help with fuel costs over the past year.
The scheme is open to households where an applicant is in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits at any time between 1 September 2022 and 31 January 2023.
400,000 households in Wales are able to claim the payment, which is available via an application to local authorities and can be accessed on top of the UK Government’s Winter Fuel Payment.
As well as the fuel support scheme, other support available from the Welsh Government includes free school meals and school essentials, help with childcare costs, council tax reductions, where applicable, as well as advice on debt management and signposts to wellbeing and mental health support.
This support is in addition to support from the UK Government, which is providing a one-off £650 cost-of-living payment to people who currently receive means-tested benefits; a £400 energy bills discount; £350 pensioner payment; and £150 Disability cost of living payment.
The Welsh Government is encouraging people who are concerned about their ability to pay for bills or want to check what financial support they are eligible for to contact Advicelink Cymru free by phone on 0808 250 5700.
Those who can’t hear or speak on the phone can type what they want to say by calling 18001 then 08082 505 720 via Relay UK.