Households in severe hardship

Poverty Picture of a wallet with no money in it
Photo by Ahsanjaya:
ProjectsMarch 1st, 2023

The Bevan Foundation was commissioned by a local authority to explore options to help households in financial crisis.

Inflation has hit many households hard and some face severe financial crisis. The Discretionary Assistance  Fund (DAF) is operated by the Welsh Government and provides Emergency Assistance Payments to people with  a short-term lack of funds for essentials such as food and heating.  The provisions of the fund were amended during the Covid-19 crisis to help households who had a shortfall in their earnings, with changes extended to households coping with the loss of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. 

The Bevan Foundation was commissioned by a local authority in Wales to identify any gaps in provision in the DAF to inform how it could support households in severe hardship in the area.

What we did

The Bevan Foundation interviewed a range of organisations that provide front-line services to people in hardship to get their views on how well the scheme worked. The interviews took place in September and October 2022.  We also analysed administrative data on DAF including the number of applications, the rejection rate and reasons for it, and the demographic characteristics of applicants.

Key findings

We found that the DAF Emergency Assistance Payments were described as a lifeline by almost everyone who was aware of them. There was also appreciation for the Individual Assistance Payments. 

However, we also found that the scheme now has many more demands on it than it was designed for, not least because of changes in the social security system.  We therefore identified several ways in which the scheme and its administration could be strengthened. We called for:

  • Information about the temporary flexibilities in the scheme should be clarified and be consistent across access points.
  • The value of DAF payments should be increased in line with inflation.
  • The frequency of payments should be standardised at 7 days apart (instead of 28 days)
  • The number of payments someone is eligible for should be five in 12 months not three.
  • The number of DAF partners should be increased and more support provided for them.
  • There is scope for a local authority hardship scheme to complement DAF e.g. when payments are not sufficient for needs, when there are delays in payment or for people who are unable to apply online.

The full report was submitted to the local authority who commissioned it for them to consider the next steps. We wrote to the Minister for Social Justice setting out our findings and shared them with officials.  


As a result of our representations, the Welsh Government immediately clarified the different rules in respect of Emergency Assistance Payments on its website and in communications with partners. Most of the Bevan Foundation’s longer term recommendations have been incorporated into arrangements for DAF in 2023/24.

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