In April 2013 parts of the discretionary social fund were handed over the local government who have been running local welfare assistance schemes (LWAS) from that point on. However, in December 2013, the government published indicative figures which suggest that LWAS will receive no dedicated funding from 2015/16.
In September 2014, the government committed to making a fresh decision on how these schemes would be funded.
As this policy note makes clear, CPAG has a number of concerns relating to this decision. Specifically:
- We question whether local authorities will either be inclined, or indeed be able, to continue LWAS in the absence of a dedicated budget and/or a strong steer from central government after 2015/16;
- As a result, the vulnerable groups in crisis that LWAS currently assist will have no place to turn except to charitable funds, private lenders or provision such as food banks;
- Beyond the misery of this situation for families and individuals, this is likely to generate longer term costs for government – increased homelessness, the need for additional social services interventions especially with respect to children, and negative health impacts of such extreme financial stress for example.
We are asking the government to continue to provide dedicated funding for LWAS for 2015/16, and that this sum is ring-fenced, or that stronger guidance is given to local authorities as to how they discharge funds.