Plaid Cymru has warned that low-income families face a “perfect storm of financial instability” unless the Welsh Government steps in to assist them.
Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru’s social justice and equality spokeswoman, said the Welsh Government’s decision to reduce the Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF) will leave thousands of families without a safety net and more impoverished.
The Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF) is Wales’ national welfare help system. It offers a small cash payment to cover essential living expenses (EAPs) and assistance to enable an individual to live independently (IAPs).
At the start of the pandemic, the plan was amended to allow more individuals to apply for financial assistance if they encountered extreme hardship as a consequence of lockdown, self-isolation, or loss of income owing to limitations.
Since March 2020, almost 220,000 Covid-related modest cash payments for necessary living expenses have been granted under the initiative.
However, the number of DAF grants given has fallen significantly in recent weeks as a result of the Welsh Government’s decision to phase out the Covid flexibilities by the end of June 2021, which made it simpler for individuals to access help.
Ms Williams described the DAF as a “vital source of support” for thousands of families and asked the Welsh Government to extend the fund’s extra flexibility beyond September.
Sioned Williams MS said: “Furlough is ending. Household bills are rising. Universal Credit is being cut by £20 a week.
“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.
“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.
“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.”