It’s welcome news for FRN and our charity members that the Government has agreed to review its decision to end the funding of Local Welfare Assistance schemes.
Our 250 members in England won’t exactly breathe a sigh of relief but it’s an encouraging development for the #keepthesafetynet campaign coalition of which FRN is part; it partially `rewards’ months of FRN network campaigning and local action by our members in some of the most deprived communities in the country.
This includes letters to, and meetings with local MPs; and supporting faith groups to do the same. This action will continue until funding is reinstated. Please use this letter to write to your local MP:
Because our members are dealing with disadvantaged, in-crisis families on a daily basis. From a recent survey, over 65% of them are simply overwhelmed by the sheer scale of demand for essential items such as beds, bedding and increasingly, food and debt advice. They are struggling to cope; some FRN members have experienced 100% increase in demand for support since April 2013 and many from working households.
These are the people who fail to meet the strict eligibility criteria of their local authority and receive zero, in-kind support; or, are not informed that funding for crisis situations is available; or the local authorities simply signpost vulnerable families to our members.
The Government’s assertion that council underspend indicates little need for this kind of essential funding demonstrates their inadequate research and understanding of the scale of desperation and poverty in local communities.
Clearly, some local authorities have failed their local communities by choosing to allocate the discretionary funding to other departments, but these are few.
One main fault is the lack of preparedness of some local authorities to the new responsibility which was passed to them by DWP with very little data to go on. Much has been said about this and we won’t repeat it. However, FRN has spent the last two months interviewing over 20 local authorities and compiling case studies of best practice showing excellent commissioning and partnership working with third sector organisations in order for our members and their local authorities to emulate these successful schemes. This list is not exhaustive. We know of many more.
However, we have been deeply encouraged and impressed by the innovative and joined-up approach taken by these authorities.
We will post these, subject to approval by the local authorities in question, to our website in due course.
The DWP is now undertaking what appears to be a quantitative review of local authority spending on local welfare assistance schemes. This is a start but probably won’t yield the kind of information that indicates actual benefit to recipients and cost savings across other public services.
Although the start date is unclear, the Government will run a public consultation which will be open to a broad range of organisations. FRN will encourage our followers, our 250 English member organisations, their stakeholders and their service users to consider responding to this consultation once it is opened.
It is essential.
We also welcome dialogue with local authorities – from both the waste and welfare departments - about implementing partnerships with their local re-use charities.
The one clear message that has come back from each local authority that we interviewed and one that FRN has been advocating since the DWP consulted on changes to the Discretionary Social Fund back in 2010/11, is that the supply of reusable, pre-used furniture items and electrical items is essential for the future support for those in crisis. Reusing `waste’ will make limited local authority budgets stretch further.
For us, waste is a poverty issue. The re-using of discarded household goods = the alleviation of poverty.
By re-using unwanted households goods, we are able to support on average, 950,000 low income households each year. We are asked to do so much more but we need access to the waste handled by local authorities.
We have the infrastructure. We have the solutions. With the right intervention we can help reduce local authority waste and welfare bills and improve the social inclusion of thousands of disadvantaged families.
For further information:
Market Development Manager
Furniture Re-use Network