April 23 2014 Latest news:
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Vulnerable people in Islington have been dealt another blow as the government is set to scrap a £172million national fund helping those in crisis.
‘Maria’ (not her real name) was subjected to severe abuse at the hands of her husband and his family. Due to her partner’s control of her finances she had no money and could not pay for a new home for her and her young child.
With nothing to her name, and no relatives in the UK, she fled to a Solace Women’s Aid refuge taking only what she could carry.
Solace arranged a lease on an unfurnished flat and made a crisis grant application to Islington’s Resident Support Scheme for essential furniture such as an oven and fridge, as well as a bed so Maria could provide a real home to her child.
Solace offered her three months’ support - working closely with the RSS - ensuring she was linked in with employment support, money advice and education to manage her long term circumstances.
The security Solace Women’s Aid and Islington’s RSS brings has allowed Maria and her child to begin the task of rebuilding their lives.
The Department for Work and Pensions is set to axe the Local Welfare Provision Grant in 15 months, which Islington Council says it uses to “keep families together” and help people “on the breadline”.
The town hall is allocated £1.2m from the fund each year and is set to use its full allocation for 2013/14, but councillors say they will have to make “more tough choices”.
The money forms around a third of the Resident Support Scheme (RSS) which was set up alongside grant-giving charity the Cripplegate Foundation in April 2013 and has already helped more than 2,000 of the neediest people in the borough.
The news comes as the council is already looking at a £20m reduction in its core central government grant for the next financial year.
Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s executive member for finance and performance, said: “This is another big blow dealt by the government to Islington Council, local charities, the homeless and the vulnerable.
“We’ve been using our Resident Support Scheme to shield our poorest residents from the worst impacts of the government’s welfare reforms.
“All the money we have spent from the fund has helped those in genuine need – keeping families together, sustaining tenancies and helping residents on the breadline to survive.”
“This decision is short-sighted and will cost councils, residents and the government in the long run. We have not been properly consulted on this decision or how it might affect the most disadvantaged, whom the scheme exists to help.
“This is yet another large sum of money for us to try to find and will mean more tough choices to prioritise support for Islington’s most vulnerable residents.
“The government is making the cuts, but local authorities have to implement them.”
Those helped by RSS in Islington so far include 964 people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, 408 who have a long-term limiting health condition, 503 who have a mental health problem and 309 with a physical disability.
Kristina Glenn, director of Cripplegate, said: “We set up our pioneering Resident Support Scheme with Islington Council in April 2013.
“It is reaching the most vulnerable Islington residents, providing practical help and transforming people’s lives.
“It is cost effective and works well. Any threat to this scheme is alarming and could impact on the lives of Islington’s poorest.”
The department says its reason for withdrawing the grant is that Community Care Grants and Loans were poorly targeted and failed to help those most in need.
A government spokesperson said: “Councils will continue to provide support to those in their community who face financial difficulties or who find themselves in unavoidable circumstances.
“In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted, councils can now choose how to best to support local welfare needs within their areas – what is right for inner London will not be for rural Cumbria.
“Government continues to provide support to local authorities’ through general funds as part of the Government’s commitment to reducing ring-fencing and ending top-down Whitehall control.”