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06.10.14

Scrapping Local Welfare Assistance fund ‘misjudged’ – LGA

Council chiefs are calling on the government to reconsider scrapping the £347m Local Welfare Assistance (LWA) fund from April next year.

A survey of local authorities in England, carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA), found that 75% expect they will have to reduce support offered next year if government funding is pulled, with 15% of councils expecting that they will have to scrap the scheme completely.

Over the last two years LWA schemes have been set up by councils to give a helping hand to thousands going through a time of crisis or transition, including people facing the threat of homelessness, families struggling to put food on the table and care leavers setting up home for the first time.

The LWA fund was introduced in 2013 to replace the government-provided Social Fund, with each local authority area allocated money from the £347m total.

However, in the government's local government finance settlement published last December it revealed that funding would not be continued from 2015. This was despite no consultation being held on the scheme's future.

Cllr Claire Kober, chair of the LGA's resources board, said: “This fund has been used by councils to provide crucial support to people facing personal crises in their lives, from help paying the rent to putting food on the table.

“By helping people at an early stage and targeting support at where it is needed most, we have been able to assist people in their time of need and prevent short-term problems escalating.”

She added that the LGA thinks the government has made the wrong decision to remove the funding for this safety net.

“And it was misjudged to have done so, especially without councils having the opportunity to show what the consequences of such a move might be,” stated Cllr Kober.

Last month campaigners confirmed that government lawyers had signed a consent order agreeing to revisit its commitment to scrap local welfare funding rather than contest a judicial review of the decision.

Responding to the decision, Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “We welcome that the government has recognised the importance of local welfare assistance schemes and has committed to undertake a thorough review and consultation before deciding how the schemes will be funded in future.”

The government has promised to announce by December whether LWA will retain its funding. And a DWP spokesperson told PSE: “The changes made to funding of local welfare provision were never about abolishing support, and it’s a total misrepresentation to suggest they were.

“This government has given councils more control because they understand best their local area’s needs – this is in contrast to the previous centralised grant system which was inflexible and poorly targeted. We are now consulting on how funding should be provided for 2015-16.”

(Image: c. Trowbridge Estate)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Ray Graham   06/10/2014 at 18:18

This appears to be short term savings with long term consequences and, whilst I agree with the capping of welfare benefits (especially when some families are getting above the average living wage for doing nothing) I disagree with denying those who genuinely fall on hard times.

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