In yet another attack on the vulnerable and poor, the government is to scrap the £180 million a year hardship fund which was introduced to help low-income families who find themselves in a sudden financial crisis.
The funding for local crisis schemes administered by local authorities is now due to end in May 2015.
The schemes are comprised of two elements – crisis support, which is designed to help penniless people with vital short-term expenses such as food or clothes; and community care grants, which would help people in severe crisis obtain basic living essentials such as beds and cooking equipment.
Information obtained by the Guardian showed local welfare schemes have proved controversial because most councils have refused to give out cash loans, which were available under the social fund, but have instead provided “in kind” support in the form of food vouchers, and referrals to food banks.
Many councils have set strict eligibility criteria – many exclude applicants who have received benefit sanctions, while others refuse to help low-paid working families – meaning that many applicants have been turned away.
A recent survey suggested the harsh criteria meant many councils had massively underspent their funds so far this year despite evidence of huge demand.
Withdrawal of government funding will mean that many local authorities will scrap their current schemes as their spending is curbed in the wake of government cuts. Local authorities have no statutory duty to provide local welfare, and with many councils, such as Birmingham, in crisis and unable to finance current statutory commitments, it is highly unlikely that people in many parts of the UK will have access to emergency funding in the future.
Charities warn that stopping the scheme will lead to further hardship for vulnerable and poor people on low incomes and benefits.
Matthew Reed who is chief executive of the Children’s Society told the Guardian “This is yet another blow to what was once a critical safety net for families facing such unpredictable emergencies and disasters as flooding, or simply running out of money to buy food for their children or feed the electricity meter.
“We urgently need a clear commitment from government to provide local authorities with sustainable funding to support families facing an unexpected financial crisis. Without this, many more families will be forced to turn to food banks, or to use loan sharks or high-cost money lenders.”
As the government continues to waste billions of pounds a year on foreign aid and makes other unnecessary increases in financing frivolous schemes which are of no use to the citizens of the UK, they continue to target the poor and vulnerable in what can only be described as social engineering.