Plans to cut crisis loans prompt fears for vulnerable

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Plans by the UK coalition to cut funding available for crisis loans has been described as “unbelievable” by SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford.

The UK Government funding provided for people in crisis or emergency situations will be slashed by more than a third when the social fund is devolved next year.

Parliamentary questions reveal over £38 million was awarded to people in need of community care grants and crisis loans in Scotland in 2010/11.  Yet only £25 million in funding has been earmarked for the Scottish Government for the same purpose when responsibility is devolved next year  – a drop of £13 million or 34%.

A welfare expert told Newsnet Scotland that the reforms were little more than cutbacks that would hit the poorest hardest.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that when the coalition say ‘reform’ they mean cuts to help for the poorest and most vulnerable in society.” she said, and added:

“This will stretch many charities providing emergency assistance to destitute individuals to breaking point and lead to many more people falling through the safety net such emergency provision is intended to provide.”

The response to questions from SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP also confirmed that the UK government has already applied tighter restrictions to availability of crisis loans prior to the devolving of the funds.  Funds are no longer available for items such as beds and cookers, and awards are restricted to three in a 12 month rolling period.

Dr Whiteford said:

“At a time of recession when many are struggling with the basic cost of living, such draconian cuts to funding for crisis loans is unbelievable, even from the Tories.

“By their nature crisis loans are a last resort, and it is appalling that the Tory Government are cutting this safety net so drastically. The only winners from this will be loan sharks and high interest lenders.

“They have already reduced the availability of crisis loans for basic items like cookers or beds, affecting thousands of people in poverty across Scotland.

“The SNP supports a fairer, simpler to use welfare system that protects those in need of support and helps people back into work. There is a need for reform, but these draconian cuts undermine the basic principles of the system.

“It’s crucial that genuinely vulnerable individuals must not become an easy target for Conservative and Lib-Dem cuts.

“With further powers over the economy and over the welfare system we could put a stop to the Tories’ dismal decade of cuts, invest in growing our economy, properly support our most vulnerable people and build a better Scotland.“