Government heeds homelessness sector’s concerns over the future of Local Welfare Assistance

Wednesday, 4 February 2015 - 2:57pm

In a written statement laid before the House of Commons yesterday, the Government has announced plans to allocate £74m to help fund Local Welfare Assistance schemes. This arrives after Homeless Link and its members submitted evidence to consultations which suggested that councils would be expected, for the first time, to fund schemes from existing, overstretched budgets.

The Social Security payments individuals receive on a regular basis are supposed to provide for a person’s basic living expenses. However, these are decreasing annually in real terms, which is why we have long advocated for a continued existence of a funding stream which sits outside of the mainstream benefits system to cover emergencies and transitions in people’s lives. This is often key in preventing or ending homelessness.

Local Welfare Assistance and its predecessors (Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants) have done this by, for example, helping people move off the streets or to keep their accommodation.    

Following last December’s Autumn Statement, in 2015-16 the £174m which had been allocated to local authorities to run these Local Welfare Assistance Schemes was due to disappear. Councils were told that they would have to find any funding for future schemes from other budgets, but already facing unprecedented financial reductions, this would have meant the end of many schemes and a huge scaling-down of others.

Homeless Link, other voluntary sector agencies and local government organisations lobbied Government throughout this process to try and get the money reinstated. As a result, the Government yesterday announced an allocation of £74 million “to recognise that councils have asked for additional support, including to help them respond to local welfare needs.

Commenting, Homeless Link’s Director of Policy and Communications, Jacqui McCluskey, said:

“Local Welfare Assistance has played a key role in providing a safety net to vulnerable people in times of crisis, preventing them from losing their homes and falling into destitution. The Government’s proposal to remove over £170m of funding for these schemes would have left thousands of households at increased risk of homelessness.

“While this announcement is good news, we still have concerns. The reduction is still £100 million (57%) of last year’s total, meaning that resources may need to be targeted at families rather than individuals. Also, the money is not ring-fenced, meaning it does not necessarily have to be spent on local welfare, creating problems for those who move around often or do not have a proven local connection to an area, such as people sleeping rough.   

“Nonetheless, the decision is welcome and reflects the concerns which have been expressed to the Government by Homeless Link and our members.” 

The full written statement by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Kris Hopkins, can be read here

The Government’s proposal to effectively remove over £170m of funding for these schemes would have left thousands of households at increased risk of homelessness.

Jacqui McCluskey, Homeless Link Director of Policy and Communications

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Stephen Holland

Stephen served as our Communications Officer until January 2016.