Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has welcomed the partial restoration of central government funding for Local Welfare Assistance schemes (LWAs) - the successor to the Social Fund – and hopes the funding levels of recent years will be restored in the near future.
Responding to the decision announced today Child Poverty Action Group Chief Executive Alison Garnham said:
“Today’s news will be welcomed by the many charities, councils and politicians who have worked with us to warn ministers of the devastating and costly consequences of pulling the plug on central government funding for council-run local welfare assistance schemes. They can be a lifeline for the most vulnerable families with children so really are just about the last thing ministers should be cutting. We should not forget, we’re talking here about how we help women fleeing domestic violence, people moving on from homelessness and youngsters leaving care.
“It’s obviously disappointing that despite all the evidence ministers are still insisting on a cut targeted at the poorest in their moment of greatest need but the £74m announced today may help preserve the foundations of local welfare assistance schemes which are a crucial last resort for people in acute need.
“We hope today’s decision signals a willingness to return to current funding levels in the medium term so that councils are properly equipped to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
Notes to Editors:
Local Welfare Assistance schemes (or Local Welfare Provision) are emergency grants which replaced large parts of the national 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 LWP would receive no dedicated funding from 2015/16. After the government settled a legal challenge with CPAG and others, it committed to making a fresh decision on how schemes were funded following a consultation with the public.
Following the consultation, Kris Hopkins announced, in the pre-Christmas Provisional Local Government Settlement, that no new money would be provided for the schemes - although £129m of existing grants was identified as money councils could use for LWAs. He said:
“Local authorities will continue to be able to offer local welfare assistance from within existing budgets, alongside a range of other services for 2015 to 2016 if they judge it a priority in their area. It would be helpful to many areas to see how much of their existing funding relates to this. So today I can confirm that we have separately identified an amount relating to local welfare provision in each upper-tier authority’s general grant, totalling £129.6 million nationally.” He also said that the government would consider responses on how schemes should be funded, including those calling for funding “over and above existing budgets”, and that the final decision would be announced in February. The speech has a section on Local Welfare Provision.
The Minister also included in the settlement documents a question on how the schemes should be funded and said that he would take into account responses to the proposed cut before a final settlement was made.
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:
CPAG Press and Campaigns Officer
Tel. 020 7812 5216 or 07816 909302