West Sussex County Council is calling on the Government to change its mind over the scrapping of a fund that provides emergency support to people facing short-term crises.
The County Council is concerned the withdrawal of the £347 million Local Welfare Assistance Fund will leave it unable to help out families in crisis. It will be joining with the Local Government Association in lobbying the Government and wants residents in West Sussex to write to their local MPs.
The Fund was introduced in 2013 to replace Government-provided crisis loans.
West Sussex was allocated £1.24m from the £347 million total, which it directed towards its Local Assistance Network. This small amount means families in trouble with no other means of help have some means of support. Without it there is a risk that families in dire circumstances may be forced to seek help from loan sharks.
However, this year’s Local Government Finance Settlement revealed that Government funding would not be renewed in 2015. This decision was taken without a promised review of the grant ever having taken place.
Through the Local Assistance Network, West Sussex has set up a network of voluntary and community groups who are able to meet urgent need by providing assistance in kind, such as furniture, vouchers for food banks or other household essentials.
The Network also links with the District and Borough Councils and the Children and Family Centres and supports the individual, couple or family to make lifestyle changes.
Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “This is a disappointing decision by the Government and through the Local Government Association we will be making our feelings known.
“While we all understand the need to make savings and deliver efficiencies, this is a cut too far, and we hope the government will be prepared to revisit its decision. We had set up exactly what the Government wanted us to set up and we believe it was helping people in need.
“West Sussex County Council and our partners are delivering a far more efficient service than Government was ever able to and are able to help people make changes in their lives so hopefully they will not require this sort of short term aid again. Other councils could have adopted this scheme.
“We have now been left with an unfunded new burden so if we fund this – and we know that morally we have to – then another service will lose out. This is about people needing help at the most vulnerable point in their lives.
“Without it, I fear many people will go to loan sharks and find themselves in even worse trouble.”