Council-run crisis support schemes failing people

A new report from The Children’s Society and the Church of England has warned that crisis support schemes run by local authorities are failing to operate effectively.

With increasing numbers of destitute people turning instead to food banks and other voluntary agencies for help, as well as a lack of publicity and restrictive eligibility criteria, the report finds that vulnerable people are being deterred from applying for Local Welfare Assistance schemes.

The number of awards under the Local Welfare Assistance scheme in the report’s seven case study areas in 2016/17 ranged between three per cent and 29 per cent of the level of equivalent awards in 2009/10 made under the Social Fund, leaving the report authors to urge stronger leadership from local authorities in developing effective crisis support for people in need. As part of this, the two organisations are asking the government to provide more funding and set minimum standards for these schemes.

Matthew Reed, Children’s Society chief executive, said: “Families in need of financial crisis support are often experiencing one of the hardest times of their life, such as fleeing domestic violence or experiencing a serious mental or physical health problem. It’s vital that when they need help to buy food or nappies, put money on the electricity meter or replace a broken fridge that they can access this help quickly and easily. Instead, families who are in desperate need may find there is nowhere to turn.

“Local charities are having to step in to provide the safety net that the government and councils used to, relying on donations and volunteers to do so. Sadly with more and more people facing crisis, particularly as Universal Credit rollout continues apace, it’s becoming increasingly urgent for local crisis support to be coordinated and more consistent so that vulnerable people don’t fall through the gaps.”

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