William Eichler 28 October 2022

Benefit cuts leave council welfare schemes ‘over-burdened’

Benefit cuts leave council welfare schemes ‘over-burdened’ image
Image: N Crittenden / Shutterstock.com.

Cuts to benefits have left local authority-administered discretionary welfare support funds ‘over-burdened’, think tank warns.

A new briefing note on discretionary welfare support, which provides ad hoc help to individuals and families facing acute needs, has found that in recent years these payments have been used to ‘compensate some for cuts to benefit entitlements.’

The briefing note, published by the Resolution Foundation, found that discretionary crisis support fell significantly in the lead up to the COVID-19 pandemic, while spending on Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) has increased seven-fold.

It also noted that increases in discretionary support – notably, increases to DHPs in 2013 and to the Household Support Fund in 2021 – have coincided with £29bn of cuts to entitlement-based benefits, which led the think tank to conclude that despite the increases, discretionary support is ‘over-burdened.’

The report also found that devolution has led to ‘stark differences’ in the provision of discretionary support, with Scotland providing over six-times as much support per person than England.

Localisation of crisis support in England has also led to one-in-four local authorities offering no discretionary crisis support at all.

‘Overall, we find that discretionary welfare support has undergone a significant change in recent years, with locally-delivered support increasingly used to soften the sharp edges of large-scale benefit cuts,’ the report says.

‘As a result, crisis support schemes are often overburdened; can be arduous to administer; and provide very different support depending on where an applicant lives.’

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