24 December 2014

UPDATE 18 January 2015 The Centre for responsible credit has published a report on the dire fall in welfare assistance since the localisation of the scheme. The report Where now for local welfare schemes? is here:scroll down to the pdf download.

ORIGINAL POST 24 December 2014
The coalition Tory/Libdem government celebrates Christmas by dumping central government support for the most vulnerable

It’s the season of goodwill so here is a seasonable tale.

I wrote earlier about the localisation of a welfare safety net, what in Cornwall is now called the crisis and care awards and is generally known as local welfare provision or assistance. It is to help people who are desperate and vulnerable and in a crisis, a truly important safety net.

Initially central government ran it but in April 2013 handed over separate and identifiable funds for it to local councils to develop their own schemes. The funding was not ring fenced. Cornwall Council received £985 074 in 2013/14 and 2014/15 from the government for its local scheme (plus administration funds).

Earlier this year the Tory/Libdem government announced it was ceasing from April 2015 to fund the local schemes with separate and specific funds. This led to a legal challenge and then a further consultation.

The upshot of all this is set out in the recently proposed local government settlement: central government will no longer provide separate and identified, but not ringed fenced, funding for local welfare assistance schemes which are in addition to general revenue funds. The funds for these schemes will now have to come from a council’s general revenue grants from central government, that is be funded from within a council’s existing budget.

As a sop to critics, the government is indicating the amount of general funds that could appropriately be spent by a council on its local welfare provision scheme but spending all or any of it on such a scheme is not mandatory; indeed, some councils have abandoned their schemes.

The government’s new proposed arrangements are set out in 2.2 here.

So there you have it, a Tory/Libdem tale for the season of goodwill.

I hope that Cornwall Council will ensure its scheme continues and is fully funded. I think the council is looking for new ways of delivering it but its continuance at its present level at least is very important. It helps those in genuine need.

Cornwall Council statement of 18 December 2014 on the proposed local government finance settlement included this: “We also welcome the fact that the Government has decided to retain the local welfare provision grant which means we will receive £885,000 (a reduction of £250,000 on last year’s grant) to help support vulnerable people in Cornwall this year.” This puzzles me. It seems to me to be an interesting interpretation of what the government funding proposals are for local welfare provision.

The Tory/Libdem government announcement December 2014 included this explanation: “Local authorities will continue to be able to offer local welfare assistance from within existing budgets, alongside a range of other services in 2015 – 16 if they judge it a priority in their area. It would be helpful to many areas to see how much of their existing funding relates to this. An amount relating to local welfare provision has been separately identified in each upper-tier authority’s general grant, totally £129.6 million nationally.“

In November 2014 the government had said this of its proposals for local welfare assistance schemes : “from April 2015, it was intended that this would be funded from general grant to Local Government, instead of an identifiable sum being made available specifically for this purpose as before (albeit on a non-ringfenced basis).”

See also Guardian 18 December 2014, an article of the ending of central government funding.