May 2013 Local Welfare Provision Update

02/05/2013
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In October 2012 we explained the plans to replace the discretionary Social Fund (primarily Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants) with local welfare provision provided by local authorities and devolved administrations.

These provisions came into effect from April 2013.  Already critics are arguing that the funding transferred from central government is insufficient to meet local need at a time of increasing demand for assistance. More significantly, the transferred funding is not ring-fenced, fueling fears that hard-pressed local authorities will struggle to provide a fair, transparent and reasonably funded scheme. Many authorities plan to use local food and furniture banks to assist those facing the greatest difficulty, supplemented by the use of vouchers or possibly increased funding through discretionary housing payments  and payments to families under section 17 Children Act 1989.
Since there are no new lergal duties on local authorities, each authority is free to develop its own scheme and advisors will have to be aware of how different schemes operate. This will make it increasingly difficult to support service users living in different boroughs or who move from borough to borough and goes against the government’s stated aims of making welfare provision simpler and more transparent.
In addition, there is no national appeal or review system for challenging decisions; meaning advisors will have to resort to localised complaints procedures or complaints to the local councillor, MP of Ombudsman.    

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