Local Welfare Assistance
£74 million for local welfare and adult social care
4 February 2015
Following councils' call for government to reverse its decision to remove funding for Local Welfare Assistance schemes, the government has announced £74 million for upper-tier authorities to go towards local welfare and adult social care. This was included in the Local Government Finance Settlement for 2015/16 which was issued on 3 February. Compared to the £172 million, for local welfare assistance schemes in the current financial year, this new announcement represents a substantial reduction in funding.
For more detail see the following link to the LGA media release 4 February 2015.
Impact of withdrawal of local welfare funding
29 January 2015
The LGA has issued a press release that sets out the potential impact of withdrawal of local welfare assistance funding. We found that withdrawal would put up to 50,000 people at greater risk of homelessness which would cost up to £380 million.
LGA responds to local welfare consultation
21 November 2014
The LGA has responded to the government consultation highlighting the important role of local welfare assistance funding. The response highlights the role councils have had since localisation of this funding by setting up schemes that have successfully and innovatively addressed the needs of local people. Local schemes have successfully managed demand, reduced the scope for abuse while increasing the cost effectiveness of the funding. In particular councils have sought to move resources into preventative work designed to meet the underlying needs of applicants to prevent longer-term problems rather than simply meeting crisis needs.
The response outlines the impact that withdrawal of funding will have on vulnerable residents based on research that shows that three quarters of councils will scale back or cancel their schemes unless they are funded. As a result the LGA calls for separately identifiable and additional funding in 2015/16 in order that councils can continue to provide this important safety net to residents in need.
In addition, the LGA has sent a joint letter with a group of charities (Child Poverty Action Group, Children's Society and Crisis) to government ministers demonstrating shared concern at the withdrawal of funding. The letter requests that the government fully funds local welfare assistance schemes.
Delivering Local Welfare report and survey
The 'Delivering local welfare' report examines how ten local authorities created Local Welfare Schemes in their area to provide effective, joined-up community care and crisis support to vulnerable groups.
It found that councils have:
- moved away from cash payments towards ‘in-kind' support to reduce the potential for abuse of the system
- delivered cost-effectively by negotiating bulk purchasing deals with suppliers, using local providers and recycling projects to both keep the cost of items low and improve the level of service
- ensured that they are managing demand effectively
- targeted provision to those in greatest need
- moved resources into more preventative work to do more to meet the underlying needs of applicants
The report finds that the maintenance of effective Local Welfare Assistance schemes is at risk if separately identifiable funding is not made available to support these beyond March 2015.
An accompanying survey found that nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of councils expected to scale back or scrap their schemes completely as a result of the withdrawal of separately identifiable funding in 2015/16.
In a letter to Chief Executives of English Local Authorities, dated 30th September, the DWP, the Treasury and the DCLG say that they are to reconsider how local welfare provision should be funded in 2015 – 2016. The letter says:
‘We will inform you of the outcome of our reconsiderations as early as possible and in any event by the time of the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement. We will notify you as soon as practicable of the steps that we propose to take to carry out our reconsideration.'
Some components of the nationally administered Social Fund were localised from 2012/13 as Local Welfare Assistance. The Government's stated intention was to overcome some of the shortcomings of a national approach to crisis loans and community support grants by enabling councils to determine and administer support which is more effectively targeted at identified local need.
The funding has been allocated to county and unitary authorities and has been given to councils as separately identified, but non-ringfenced, grant payment. From 2015/16 responsibility for the grant has passed from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). DCLG has taken the decision to end the separately identified grant. The Department has stated that the money has been rolled into core council funding, but it has not been identified and exists as a notional component of the significantly reduced overall funding envelope.
The Minister of State for Pensions, Steve Webb MP wrote to Chief Executives at the end of January to say that the Department for Work and Pensions intends to implement quarterly monitoring of local welfare scheme funding during 2014/15.
Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell responded to the Minister's letter to express the LGA's concerns about this approach; particularly in the context of the total removal of separately identified funding from 2015.
This follows an earlier letter to Eric Pickles MP, Minister for Communities and Local Government expressing the LGA's concerns about the complete removal of separately identified funding for local welfare support post 2015.
Steve Webb MP Minister of State for Pensions replied:
Subsequently the DWP has announced a single review of council spending of LWA funding following further correspondence between Sir Merrick Cockell and Steve Webb.
The DWP review, based on a questionnaire, was sent to Chief Executives on 30 April. It seeks quantitative information on how councils have spent the fund in 2012/13 and how they intend to spend it in 2013/14.
14 July 2015