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Fix failing poverty-fighting schemes run by local councils after huge cuts, Tory MPs say

Poverty-fighting schemes run by local councils are failing after funds were slashed and some were axed altogether, a group of Conservative MPs is warning….

By admin , in latest news , at February 1, 2021 Tags:

Poverty-fighting schemes run by local councils are failing after funds were slashed and some were axed altogether, a group of Conservative MPs is warning.

An urgent review of Local Welfare Assistance Schemes (LWAS) is needed, the MPs say – in a move threatening to further embarrass Rishi Sunak, amid the ongoing row over Universal Credit cuts.

The funds are meant to help people with no spare money to pay for emergencies, such as a broken washing machine or to cope with flood damage, through grants or loans.  

But councils are spending as little as £41m a year, not the £132m intended – itself a huge reduction on the £330m Social Fund axed 8 years ago – and at least 23 have no scheme at all.

In England, just 73p is being spent per person, the Children’s Society says – far less than in Wales (£3.37), Scotland (£6.49) or Northern Ireland (£7.31).

Now the Tories, led by former ministers Paul Maynard and Iain Duncan Smith, will put forward a motion in the Commons on Tuesday demanding a review.

“We have seen the difference local councils can make in a national crisis during the pandemic with emergency grant schemes,” said Mr Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys.

“But crises occur in individual lives year in and year out and we need to ensure we learn the lessons of the pandemic to embed a better provision of emergency support for some of the most vulnerable in our society.”

Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the Commons education committee, is also supporting the review, as are fellow Tories Peter Aldous, Jason McCartney, Andrew Selous, Gary Sambrook and Simon Fell.

The controversy comes as the Chancellor continues to face criticism from his own MPs for planning to slash £1,000-a-year from 6 million Universal Credit claimants, at the end of March.

The all-party parliamentary group on poverty, co-chaired by the Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, wants the top-up to be retained beyond April, and for the benefit cap to be suspended.

The charity Turn2us, which helps people in financial distress, welcomed the demand for a review, warning there was no statutory obligation on councils to have any local welfare scheme.

It also warned of poor publicity, vague criteria and an onerous application process which shut people out, calling for more cash payments rather than food vouchers to be available.

“When the government abolished the Social Fund in 2013, it was thought that it would be more efficient for local councils to deliver crisis support instead,” said Thomas Lawson, chief executive at Turn2us.

“However, households have been left adrift as councils struggle to provide local grant schemes due to lack of funding and lack of statutory obligations.”

And Toby North, of The Children’s Society, said: “Ensuring councils have well-funded and administered assistance schemes means those who are in financial crisis have somewhere to turn when they need it most.”