Press Release: Local MP challenges Council on its local emergency aid scheme
Local MP John McDonnell is asking Hillingdon Council whether it is one of the local authorities that have been exposed as cutting its Local Welfare Assistance scheme, which provides a safety net to the most vulnerable people in our community.
The background to John's concern is that last year the Government abolished its social fund and transferred responsibility to local councils to set up LWAs.
The LWA is supposed to fund a safety net of practical basic items and services that enable the most vulnerable people and families to establish or maintain safe homes for themselves and take part in school, training, community life and employment.
More than 150 English councils currently receive an annual grant to provide this crisis support for residents in serious hardship, including women fleeing domestic violence, homeless people, pregnant mothers, disabled people and families suffering poor health or financial crisis as a result of flooding or natural disasters.
However this grant is no longer ring fenced, meaning that councils do not have to spend the grant on the LWA.
An analysis by the Guardian Newspaper shows that under the new local welfare assistance schemes, four in 10 applications for emergency funds are turned down, despite evidence that many applicants have been made penniless by benefits sanctions and delays in processing benefit claims. Under the previous system – the social fund – just two in 10 were. In some parts of the country, as few as one in 10 applicants obtain crisis help.
Despite charities reporting that demand for help has rocketed as a result of economic hardship and welfare cuts, some councils spent more money setting up and administering their welfare schemes than they gave to needy applicants.
A survey of local authorities in England carried out by the LGA also found that three-in-four Local Authorities expect they will have to reduce support offered next year if government goes ahead with cutting funding for the scheme, with 15 per cent of local authorities expecting that they will have to scrap the scheme completely.
Having failed to carry out an equality impact assessment, consult local authorities or to conduct a formal assessment of the scheme, a successful legal challenge has forced the government to review its policy and consultation is taking place between now and December.
John McDonnell said "I want to know if Hillingdon is one of those councils which have set up a Local Welfare Scheme that is holding back on the essential support very vulnerable people in your community need. I am also calling upon the Government not to cut this desperately needed support to some of the poorest families in our area."