Child Poverty Action Group criticises local welfare decision

December 18, 2014

Child Poverty Action Group has criticised the Government’s decision to maintain the cut in funding for local welfare assistance schemes (LWAs), announced today by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Kris Hopkins in the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement.

The council-run schemes succeeded the Social Fund in 2013 and can grant moderate amounts to people in critical need. (1)

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:

“It’s good that the Government is now acknowledging the importance of local welfare assistance schemes but the bottom line is that, at a time when councils are facing unprecedented cuts to their budgets, it must know that the only way to ensure people in acute need can receive emergency assistance is to provide specific budgets that cannot be used by councils for anything else.

“In the long-run tax payers will foot a higher bill if low-income families can’t stop a one-off, unforeseen expense from becoming a full-blown crisis and the human cost will be high. For mothers leaving violent partners or youngsters moving on from homelessness or care, the schemes can make the difference between managing or not.

“A critical piece of the social security system is at risk. Low incomes do not allow families to build up savings so it is very difficult to understand how families who are under exceptional pressure would cope with one-off or unexpected costs without these schemes. Local welfare is the final back stop for families with nowhere else to turn - what a miserable message to send at Xmas.

“The government has conducted an internal review and received 5,000 submissions to its consultation on the schemes. It is hard to understand how in the face of all this evidence it has still concluded this cut is a good idea."

Notes to Editors:

(1) LWAs are the emergency grants which replaced large parts of the national discretionary social fund since April 2013. The schemes help households on a low income manage one-off or unexpected expenditure, such as replacing a broken cooker or setting up home after fleeing domestic violence or leaving care. For further information see Policy Note 1: May 2014

To date, LWAS have been funded by a specific DWP grant. However, in December 2013 the government published indicative figures which suggested that LWAs would receive no dedicated funding from 2015/16. After a successful challenge by CPAG and others in the courts, the government committed to consult widely on various funding options.

The consultation placed three specific options on the table, none of which proposed maintaining funding levels for 2015/16, while a fourth option allowed respondents to propose ‘other options for delivering and funding local welfare provision’.

A survey by the Local Government Association found that almost three quarters (73%) of councils would axe or cut back their local scheme if the funding was abolished

CPAG’s response to the Government’s consultation is here.

  • CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.
  • CPAG is the host organisation for the Campaign to End Child Poverty coalition, which has members from across civil society including children’s charities, faith groups, unions and other civic sector organisation, united in their campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is met.

 

For further information please contact:

Jane Ahrends

CPAG Press and Campaigns Officer

Tel. 020 7812 5216 or 07816 909302

jahrends@cpag.org.uk

www.cpag.org.uk