William Eichler 25 May 2018

Council-run crisis support ‘failing’ people in need

Crisis support schemes run by local authorities are failing to operate effectively, new research reveals.

Councils run Local Welfare Assistance (LWA) schemes to provide food, fuel and furniture to people in crisis.

These schemes have replaced the Social Fund.

However, according to a new report from The Children’s Society and the Church of England, LWA schemes fail to help those most in need, leaving voluntary and other statutory agencies to fill the gap.

The number of awards under the LWA scheme in the report’s seven case study areas in 2016/17 ranged between 3% and 29% of the level of equivalent awards in 2009/10 made under the Social Fund.

Entitled Not Making Ends Meet, the report concluded a lack of publicity, bureaucratic hurdles, and restrictive eligibility criteria were deterring people from applying to the schemes.

‘Families in need of financial crisis support are often experiencing one of the hardest times of their life, such as fleeing domestic violence or experiencing a serious mental or physical health problem,’ said The Children’s Society chief executive Matthew Reed.

‘It’s vital that when they need help to buy food or nappies, put money on the electricity meter or replace a broken fridge that they can access this help quickly and easily. Instead, families who are in desperate need may find there is nowhere to turn.

‘Local charities are having to step in to provide the safety net that the government and councils used to, relying on donations and volunteers to do so.

‘Sadly with more and more people facing crisis, particularly as Universal Credit rollout continues apace, it’s becoming increasingly urgent for local crisis support to be coordinated and more consistent so that vulnerable people don’t fall through the gaps.’

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