By Local Democracy Reporter
FINANCIAL support offered to the town’s poorest families has shrunk by around 87 per cent – new figures have revealed.
The Essential Living Fund – the crisis grants Essex County Council (ECC) can use to help people in extreme hardship, for example after a flood or benefits delay – has been significantly reduced from almost £3million in 2013/2014 to a budget for 2018/19 of £397,000.
The Local Welfare Assistance Scheme in Essex has been funded entirely by ECC since the Government stopped ringfenced funding in 2015.
In 2017/2018 the total amount availiable to people suffering financial crisis from the Essential Living Fund fell to £394,500.
Recent figures have also shown a severe deduction in the approval rate for applications – down from 68 per cent in 2013/2014 to an approval rate of 32 per cent in 2017/2018.
However it does mirror a reduction in the number of applications – from 8,297 in 2013/2014 to 2,033 in 2017/2018.
In that year about 591 households – around a quarter of the total who applied for an award – had children aged five or less. Of that number 199 applications were successful.
Church Action on Poverty is calling for the Government to make it a statutory duty for top-tier local authorities in England to run a local welfare scheme that can provide cash grants, loans and in-kind support for people, as appropriate, in times of need.
An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting local people who may unexpectedly find themselves vulnerable and in crisis.
“The Essential Living Fund is one of the ways as a council we can support these individuals and families.
“The Essential Living Fund is a non-cash scheme that provides practical support by way of recycled furniture, white goods, pre-payment cards for utilities and food parcels when needed.
“During 2017/18, 1,152 adults and children benefitted from this support.
“In 2015 we challenged the government’s decision to cut the grant.
“We believe that the scheme provides real benefits to those in need and we therefore made the decision to ensure that this support continued.
“For 2019/20 we have invested £400,000 to provide this vital life line for residents.
“We will continue to lobby ministers for adequate support for the most vulnerable residents in our communities and would welcome discussions about what form that support might take.”
Popularity: 1% [?]