Baillie 9By Democrat reporter

Scottish Government Statistics released this week have highlighted a drastic and alarming increase in the number of applications for crisis grants.

The figures show that from July to September 2019, Local Authorities received 51,715 applications for crisis grants: a 16 per cent increase on the previous year.

Of the applications made, 33,275 were awarded, a 15 per cent increase on the previous year which has helped raise expenditure on crisis grants to £3.2 million for the year. This represents a dramatic increase of 34 per cent on the previous year.

In West Dunbartonshire, the number of applications made from July to September 2019 was 1,335 which represented a 6% increase on the previous year. Of the number of applications made only 1,080 were awarded, which represented a 2% decrease on the previous year.

In total West Dunbartonshire Council spent £201,536 in 2019 on crisis grants between January – September 2019.

Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie, pictured above right,  said: “This dramatic rise in applications in West Dunbartonshire and across Scotland for crisis grants is deeply worrying and highlights the strain our communities and local authorities are under in this time of austerity.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund has been hit with year-on-year real terms cuts since it was set-up, and these figures show the fund is at breaking point.

“I am clear – the SNP government must deliver the funding and resources that councils like West Dunbartonshire so badly need in this years’ budget. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have called on the SNP to work constructively with Scottish Labour in order to tackle the deep social problems that are driving so many men and women in Scotland to crisis grants.”

Clydebank Collefe from Titan

West College in Clydebank, where attainment surveys have been carried out.

Meanwhile, despite increases to student numbers since 2017-18, headcount is still down by almost 100,000 since 2007, when the SNP came to power. This is equivalent to a decrease in student numbers of 27.1%.

And although enrolment rates have also increased on last year, these too, are down on 2006-07, with almost 140,000 fewer students enrolling for courses in 2018-19 than in 2006-07.

An attainment gap of over 3% exists between students from the 10% most deprived postcode areas, and all students enrolled on courses lasting 160 hours or more. Attainment gaps also exist for disabled students and those who are care experienced.

The attainment rate for full-time further education has decreased by 0.9 percentage points compared with 2017-18, and is still some distance from the Scottish Funding Council’s target attainment rate of 75% by 2020-21.

The most recent data from the Scottish government on school leaver destinations indicated that the most common destination for leavers from the most deprived areas was Further Education at 37.7 per cent.

Scottish Labour said the SNP government had to ensure Scotland’s colleges have the resources to meet the SFC’s attainment targets as well as continuing work to increase enrolment rates.

Dumbarton Constituency MSP Jackie Baillie said:  “The sustained lack of investment in Scotland’s colleges, including West College Scotland cannot continue any longer.

Despite increases to student numbers and enrolments compared with last year, there is still some way to go – headcount is still down by almost 100,000 since the SNP came to power.  

Meanwhile, the attainment gap for the poorest students, as well as for disabled and care experienced students, continues to be extremely disappointing.

The sector is also failing to make gains towards the attainment target for full time further education set by the Scottish Funding Council.

Colleges are the most common destination for many young people from Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond and funding allocations to West College Scotland and other colleges in the upcoming budget must reflect the importance of these institutions to society.”

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