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Government cuts to hardship assistance will hit the most vulnerable

Funding designed to help people through times of hardship and crisis has been cut by the Tory-led Government.

Lambeth Council, already faced with a 50% reduction to its central Government funding, will now be stripped of money designed to help  residents on the brink of homelessness, families struggling to put food on the table and care leavers setting up home for the first time.

Cllr Paul McGlone has warned that the withdrawal of Local Welfare Asssistance (LWA) will lead to increases in food and fuel poverty, homelessness, re-offending and debt and could end up costing more than it saves:

“It is absurd for the government to support local intervention and prevention and then take away funding. This will affect the most vulnerable and desperate people in our community and is a short sighted saving that will cause misery for many and cost taxpayers far more in the long run.”

Cllr McGlone has written to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith urging him to reconsider the decision.

 

Text of letter from Cllr Paul McGlone to Rt Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP

 

The Rt Hon. Iain Duncan Smith
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Caxton House
Tothill Street
SW1H 9NA


Dear Secretary of State,

The decision by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to end specific grant funding for the provision of Local Welfare Assistance (LWA) schemes will have a serious impact on Lambeth Council’s ability to provide support to vulnerable residents in crisis.

We believe that the proposals are unfair, unworkable and likely to create significant problems.

The likely increase in food and fuel poverty, homelessness, re-offending, debt, illness and severe anxiety for local residents, means that the reform could end up costing more to the public purse as more serious problems are not prevented from occurring.

The Government believes that local authorities could, and should, use general funds to pay for LWA schemes after 31 March 2015. However, 50% cuts to Lambeth’s core funding mean that this is simply not possible.
 
In April 2013, the Government devolved responsibility for delivering Local Welfare Assistance to local authorities, stating that we would be better able to determine and meet local need. We took on this additional responsibility at short notice and worked hard to design a local scheme that was very well targeted and not only met immediate needs but also provided opportunities for residents to build their financial resilience.


These are volatile areas of expenditure which are demand-led and subject to wider economic performance. As such, central government has not only transferred cost and responsibility, but significant financial risk too. We welcome the opportunity to take on new responsibilities like providing local welfare schemes, but it must be recognised that these cost-shunts run the risk of having a significant knock-on impact on resources available for other vital services such as social care.

To have the grant that had been made available to us for this purpose removed so suddenly, without consultation and without the promised review of the schemes being completed, does not sit well with the Government’s previous promises around not passing new burdens to local authorities without the funding being provided to meet those new burdens.

We believe that the Government’s proposals are unfair and unworkable. Our response to the consultation is that the Government should choose Option 4 and restore ring fenced funding to local authorities to continue to deliver local welfare assistance and that the amount of this grant should be determined according both to claimant numbers


Cllr Paul McGlone
Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources
London Borough of Lambeth

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