Government reports massive spike in emergency hardship grants

There's been a massive spike in the number of emergency hardship grants given last year compared to the year before, new figures show.

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Emergency grants have also seen a big spike, despite the country facing a low unemployment rate. Source: 1 NEWS

And the cost is spiking too, with more than twice as much spent on emergency housing grants last year compared to 2018.

In total, 573,851 hardship assistance payments were made last year, compared to 385,043 in 2018 - a 49 per cent increase.

That growth of almost 200,000 is huge compared to previous years. In just 2014, almost 200,000 were receiving hardship grants in total (196,833).

The majority of the payments are going towards food grants.

In 2019, there were 307,291 food grants, compared to 183,367 in 2018 - an increase of 67.6 per cent - and more than three times as many as in 2014 (92,167).

But despite food making up the bulk number of grants, the largest cost is instead for emergency housing - rocketing up to $48.1 million, from $19.5 million in 2018 (146 per cent increase).

It's the first time the cost of emergency housing grants has exceeded that of food grants ($30.3 million) in the last five years.

The cost jump is linked to an increase in the average value of emergency housing grants, rising from $1244 in 2018 to $1555 last year.

The data was released by the Ministry of Social Development today.