Families face ‘greater levels of financial hardship’ over winter
Thousands of families have struggled to cope with the economic impact of COVID-19, with many more set to face “greater levels of financial hardship over the coming winter”, according to a children’s charity.
In an analysis of its own urgent assistance fund, charity Aberlour found requests for emergency cash grants between March and August 2020 went up 1,000 per cent compared to the same time last year.
Six in ten families were using the cash for food, half of them for warming their homes and 29 per cent used it to clothe their children.
The charity supported families in all but one local authority in Scotland, with the majority of applications coming from Glasgow. Aberdeenshire Council was the only area which did not have any families apply for support.
Aberlour chief executive SallyAnn Kelly said: “When the lockdown started, we feared that it would have a devastating impact on families living in or on the edge of poverty. This has sadly proved to be the case.
“While our services have continued to support children and families throughout Scotland, and our supporters have donated magnificent sums to our urgent assistance fund, we need to continue to raise more money to sustain our vital work and reach more families at risk of falling through the cracks.”
The charity has also called for better promotion of the Scottish Welfare Fund, which is administered by councils, as half of applications to Aberlour were sponsored by local authority employees. The report suggested that that fund is “not sufficiently well known about and is not always reaching those who need it most”.
The report warned the value of awards made to families was reducing as the charity’s funds have diminished – but staff expressed concern that “we have not yet crested the wave of adverse financial impacts” of the pandemic.
Lone parent families have been hit hardest by the economic crisis. They made up 71 per cent of applications for support, despite making up only 25 per cent of families in Scotland.
The top reason for families seeking support was due to parental mental health issues.
The analysis also found many of the families were not eligible to be furloughed and had therefore lost work after lockdown came into force in March. Self-employed people who did not meet the criteria for the separate support scheme also saw incomes drop. Other families found their ability to maintain employment impaired due to caring responsibilities.
The author of the report, Professor Morag Treanor from the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research at Heriot-Watt University, said: “What is striking here is that all of the applications made to the urgent assistance fund were for basic essentials that are needed to survive.
“This demonstrates that there is a level of need across families in Scotland that is really quite fundamental and absolute, and on a higher scale than we have seen for some time.”