September saw the launch of a major new study by Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA) looking at local welfare assistance schemes in England.
Local welfare assistance schemes were introduced in 2013 when central government decided to devolve responsibility for crisis support to local authorities. Local welfare assistance schemes were intended to replace Crisis Loans for people experiencing a sudden financial crisis and Community Care Grants aimed at supporting vulnerable people to live independently in their own homes (both of which were delivered through the Discretionary Social Fund - administered and funded centrally.)
At the same time, the government significantly cut the amount of funding it was providing towards crisis support, and since 2013/14 there has been no ringfenced funding provided to local authorities for the delivery of local welfare assistance schemes.
GMPA’s study looks at spending on schemes over the last three years and compares the support available through local schemes with the support that was available under the old Discretionary Social Fund. The findings are shocking and suggest a complete collapse in crisis support in many parts of the country. GMPA believe the decision to localise support in 2013 has been a failure due to the government’s hands-off approach to local welfare provision.
You will also find full details on the GMPA website, including:
• The report: The collapse of crisis support in England.
• A map showing areas without local welfare assistance schemes in place and detailing what is happening to local welfare assistance scheme budgets in each area.
GMPA believes it was unrealistic to expect local councils to pick up the responsibility for crisis support during a period when they have been facing unprecedented cuts to their budgets and without any proper guidance or support from central government. They are calling on the government to introduce new ringfenced funding for local welfare assistance schemes alongside a proper framework for the delivery of schemes.