Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, Council CEO Joyce White and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
By Lucy Ashton
Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has raised the fact that many local people are experiencing delays in self-isolation grants being paid with the First Minister in Parliament this week.
Jackie Baillie spoke of a number of constituents who were forced to wait up to 11 weeks to receive the vital grant. When Jackie Baillie raised this with West Dunbartonshire Council, she was told that the lack of payment was due to the council having not received the necessary funds from the Scottish Government.
However, Jackie Baillie has since been contacted by a whistleblower at the Council who says that the delay is due to the Council being severely understaffed. This means that there is a huge backlog in grant applications which cannot be processed quickly as there are not enough staff to do it.
Given that this section of the Council deals with emergency payments like crisis grants as well as self-isolation grants, this is simply not good enough and the Chief Executive of the Council needs to take urgent action.
The First Minister was unable to offer an explanation for this failing.
Jackie Baillie MSP said: “It is completely unacceptable that local people are having to wait for months to receive self-isolation grants. This is vital funding that many will not be able to live without.
“The delays in payments will force many people to return to work for financial reasons before it is safe for them to do so.
“It is incredibly concerning to learn that the Council has not employed enough staff to deal with the workload created by grant applications. This is having a negative impact on the stress levels of staff as well as the ability for payments to be processed quickly.
“This is clearly a West Dunbartonshire problem as I understand that neighbouring Argyll & Bute Council processes self isolation grant applications in days, not months.
“The Chief Executive [£150,000 a year Joyce White] needs to get a grip of this and sort this out immediately so that local people do not lose out.”
Meanwhile, at Westminster, commenting on the Government cut to Universal Credit ahead of this afternoon’s debate, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Work and Pensions Wendy Chamberlain said: “The decision to rip support from millions of families across the country shows how completely out of touch the Prime Minister really is.
“He claims that he wants people to live by their own efforts rather than welfare. So either he doesn’t know that almost half of those receiving Universal Credit are already in work or he doesn’t care.
“Working people, many with young families, are struggling. Furlough is ending, costs are rising and the Government has hiked taxes on low-paid workers and the young.
“The Liberal Democrats are joining with opposition parties and some Conservative MPs to demand that the Government leaves no one behind and makes the uplift to Universal Credit permanent. We are also calling for the uplift to be extended to people on legacy benefits, the majority of whom are disabled, who were callously denied the initial uplift entirely.”