Cash to support those in need during the winter
At the recent full council meeting, members agreed to setting up a dedicated Scottish Welfare Fund team after hearing revenues staff were overwhelmed with applications for crisis and community care grants.
Processing 9247 applications in 2023/23 had created a five-month delay in dealing with other work including new benefit claims and supporting households in Council Tax arrears. A total of £195,000 of the cost-of-living funding will now be spent on employing four full-time staff to deal solely with the increased Scottish Welfare Fund demand. This will free up existing staff to clear the Council Tax and benefits backlog.
A further £200,000 of Midlothian’s share of Scottish Government Covid Economic Recovery money, will be spent on supplementing the fund awards to help keep them in line with inflation. The cross-party Cost of Living Taskforce will allocate the remaining £140,000, including continuing support for Trusted Partners, such as the Red Cross, which give financial support to local people for food, fuel and other key essentials.
Council Leader Councillor Kelly Parry said the funding was vital if supports were to remain in place throughout the winter.
She said: “With interest rates rising and people continuing to worry if they’ll be able to afford to put their heating on, this crisis is getting worse rather than better. We need to be able to continue to respond quickly and effectively, which is what this funding will help us do albeit within the very challenging financial constraints the council is facing.”
Cllr Parry also said spending £15,000 of the £140,000 would mean the warm and well hubs in Lasswade, Danderhall, Newbattle and Loanhead libraries could be kept open. A weekly wash and dry laundry service for identified families and individuals will continue as will a joint initiative between the council and the British Red Cross, delivering reheatable meals to vulnerable people who cannot cook because of challenges such as medical conditions.
Councillors heard giving pantries and foodbanks an extra £2,000 each this year would cost around £24,000 in total while Withyou housing support would carry on helping young people, adults and families.
To apply for a SWF grant visit www.midlothian.gov.uk/SWF
For more help with the cost of living visit www.midlothian.gov.uk/midlothiancares