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'Local welfare' schemes on brink of collapse

Thousands of people are being swept further into poverty or forced to turn to foodbanks and other charitable responses, as a result of cuts to crisis support in England according to new research.

In 2013 the Government abolished the system of emergency grants and loans provided via the Social Fund and instead told each top-tier local authority in England to set up its own Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (LWAS). At the same time, central Government funding for this vital support fell from £330 million in 2010–11 to £178 million in 2013–14.

New research from Church Action on Poverty reveals the steep decline in Local Welfare Assistance schemes across England. Over the past five years, at least 28 local authorities have closed their schemes completely and almost all the remaining schemes have been drastically cut back. In total, the amount spent on Local Welfare Assistance by councils who responded to Freedom of Information requests has been cut by 72.5% since 2013–14.

At least 28 local authorities have closed their LWAS provision completely. At least three others have stopped direct public access, allocating all funds to other organisations or projects. (Peterborough, Poole, Hampshire). Councils that responded have cut their LWAS budget by an average of 72.5% since 2013–14.

Around a quarter of a million people in England sought help from a LWAS in 2017–18. In the first five years of the schemes, there have been more than 1.5 million applications nationwide.

Read Church Action On Poverty - Compassion in Crisis