Lib Dems: Social Fund figures reveal scale of poverty crisis

Crisis loans given out by the Social Fund rose by 44% last year revealing the increasing problems poorer families are having making ends meet, the Liberal Democrats have said.

The figures, released by the party yesterday and revealed in a parliamentary answer, showed that 1.2m loans were awarded in 2007-8 across Britain, up from 835,000 in 2006-7. In Wales, the North East, South East and the West Midlands, the number of loans rose by over two-thirds, while applications for loans rose by 32% in 2007-8 to 2.1m.

Crisis loans are awarded to help people meet expenses in an emergency or because of a disaster, and Jobcentre Plus staff must consider them to be the only way of preventing serious risk or damage to the applicant or their family. The average loan was £117 in 2006-7 with the figure for 2007-8 yet to be published.

Jenny Willott, the Lib Dems’ shadow work and pensions secretary, said it was “disgraceful” that people had to rely on crisis loans “to put food on the table and a roof over their heads”.

The Lib Dems also revealed that there had been a cut of 10% in staffing levels at the Social Fund since May 2007, though there had been an increase of 19% in the number working on crisis loans.

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