Spending on local emergency support schemes to help families with nowhere left to turn have fallen by £250m in the last decade, according to new research.
The research published today by the Children’s Society shows that while £291m was spent on crisis provision through the nationally administered Discretionary Social Fund in 2010/11, compared to £41m in 2018/19 through the replacement Local Welfare Assistance schemes.
The charity’s analysis found that around 63% of councils reduced their spending on welfare assistance between 2015/16 and 2018/19.
And of those, more than one in three cut spending by more than 50%.
The Children’s Society also asked authorities what their budget for local welfare provision was for 2019/20, of those councils that provided data, 13 councils reported that they did not have a specific budget, which is an increase from seven councils in the previous year.
The charity has warned that current coronavirus crisis is having a devastating effect on family incomes, meaning more people are turning to their councils for support. However, it has added before the virus the number of successful awards from councils to residents had steadily fallen.
In 2012/13, the final year of the previous nationally administered Discretionary Social Fund, 737,430 awards were made.
Following the introduction of local welfare assistance, awards fell dramatically.
The Children’s Society analysis found that in 2015/16, when 207,530 awards were made. While in 2018/19, just 183,693 awards were given out.
‘The coronavirus crisis is likely to have a devastating financial impact for many families for months or even years to come,’ said Children’s Society chief executive, Mark Russell.
‘Without savings to fall back on, this virus could leave them unable to feed and clothe their children, heat their home or pay rent. Local welfare assistance must be there to help in these circumstances, but its erosion has meant too many people are left with nowhere to turn.
‘While the recent hardship fund from the government is welcome, once used for council tax relief it is unlikely there will be enough to allow councils to rebuild the welfare support that is needed. Without more urgent investment vulnerable households will be left to fall through the cracks,’ he added.
In response, the chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, Cllr Richard Watts, said many councils will find it hard to sustain the levels of support that people are likely to need without additional funding.
‘With the right funding and flexibilities, councils can better support low-income and disadvantaged households, lift thousands out of poverty and help the Government realise its commitment to level up communities across the country,’ added Cllr Watts.
Photo Credit – Jarmoluk (Pixabay)