Local lifelines – new research on local welfare schemes in England

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Earlier this week, the Prime Minister told us no child will go hungry this winter. Our new report today shows that extending local welfare would be a good place to start. 

Local Lifelines: investing in local welfare during and beyond Covid-19 shows the important role local welfare assistance schemes run by councils in England have played during Covid-19, and calls for an extension to the £63m funding announced in June, which the government expected to be spent within twelve weeks.

The report explains:

  • Local welfare assistance has played an important role in the response to the crisis, often making the difference between someone staying on their feet or falling into destitution, and it can be an effective way of preventing a financial emergency from escalating into a more sustained crisis.
  • While the £63m of funding for local authorities in England invested in June has provided a lifeline, central government was clear it expected councils to spend most of this money within 12 weeks. We spoke with local authorities who told us they are now facing a financial cliff edge, with further investment needed if they are to keep delivering support to those hardest hit by the crisis.
  • As we move into winter, with 670,000 more people forecast to be pushed into destitution, now is not the time to discontinue that welcome additional investment in local welfare.

Sustainable long-term funding is needed – it is unreasonable to expect such short-term funding to overcome entrenched issues such as the postcode lottery in provision, with regional spend in 2018/19 varying from £0.39 per head in the West Midlands to £1.32 per head in the North West. Only guaranteed, sustainable funding can give local authorities the security to plan ahead and build capacity.

We’re asking the government to:

  1. Extend the Emergency Assistance Grant until the end of the financial year 2020/21
  2. Reconvene the Food and Other Essential Supplies to the Vulnerable Ministerial Task Force until July 2021
  3. Invest £250m per year in local welfare assistance over the longer-term.

Food cannot be the answer to people needing a food bank – instead, we need to ensure everyone has enough money to afford essentials. While it’s essential that steps are taken to strengthen national social security, we also need to make sure local welfare acts as the lifeline we know it can be.

Read the full report here.