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Last updated March 2015

Safety net reprived

Dominic Fox, discusses the reprive of local welfare provision funding and how it will be managed.

Following ACO’s call for government to reverse its decision to remove funding for Local Welfare Assistance schemes, the settlement included an additional £74million for upper-tier authorities in 2015/16. The sum awarded reprieves the continued existence of funding to local welfare assistance schemes although it falls short of the £172m spent in the current financial year.

The Local Government Association said: “The provision of £74 million of additional funding will help councils provide a lifeline to some of their most vulnerable residents. However, this still amounts to a reduction of almost £100 million in government funding for local welfare. At a time when councils are tackling the biggest funding cuts in living memory, many areas will struggle to protect their local support scheme from this cut from April. This is also unlikely to have a meaningful impact in alleviating the huge pressures on adult social care.”

Speaking for the government, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon in a short debate on 10th February said “local authorities can continue to offer local welfare assistance alongside a range of other services in 2015-16 if they judge it to be a local priority. To assist them with this, we have identified an amount in each upper tier authority’s general grant totalling £129.6 million nationally”.

You would be forgiven for finding the competing claims somewhat confusing, as the subject of local welfare provision funding has been subject to serious political spinning. The £129.6 million previously announced by the government was not additional funding but was expected to come from councils’ reserves. We calculate that the additional £74m that really is extra money will fund at best 50% of existing schemes.

A House of Commons Written Statement made by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Kris Hopkins on 3rd Feb 2015 stated “the Government concluded that local authorities would continue to be able to offer local welfare assistance from within existing budgets for 2015-16, alongside a range of other services, if they judge it a priority in their area".

To assist in identifying how much of their existing funding relates to this, an amount relating to local welfare provision was separately identified in each upper-tier authority’s general grant. This totalled £130 million nationally and was distributed in line with local welfare provision funding in 2014-15.

“The Government has always been clear that councils should choose how best to support local welfare needs. Therefore this allocation will not be ring-fenced and we will not be placing any new duties, expectations or monitoring requirements on its use”

The full House of Commons statement can be found at www.aco.uk.net/url-3p9v

ACO will continue to work with our partners in monitoring the provision of local welfare in 2015. Thanks to ACO members Family Fund, Charis Grants, Auriga Services, Charity for Civil Servants, Elizabeth Finn Care and Glasspool Trust for working so hard to make this campaign a success.

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