People in a crisis will be able to receive help thanks to two new initiatives given the go-ahead by councillors in Newcastle.
The Supporting Independence Scheme is designed to help people needing to be resettled into the community, for example from residential or institutional care. And the Crisis Support Scheme is for people who have suffered a disaster or a crisis, for example a fire at their home or fleeing domestic violence.
Both schemes replace Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) through the Social Fund which the Government is abolishing from April. It believes that councils can provide more effective help, more efficiently, at a local level, to people in difficulties than the DWP can at a national level.
However the council will receive about £200,000 less than what it believes it needs for the Crisis Support Scheme, a cut of nearly 50 per cent.
Deputy leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Joyce McCarty, who has responsibility for financial inclusion, commended the council’s schemes but fears that people will go without the help they need because of a lack of funding.
Cllr McCarty said: “Many people are finding it very tough at the moment at a time when the Government is looking to make big changes to welfare benefits.
“We have been asked to devise new schemes to administer crisis loans and community care grants which we have done with great fairness however I fear that we will not have enough money to do this effectively.
“The money we are receiving from Government to replace crisis loans is £222,900 - the same amount given out in 2005/06 by the DWP, but since then more and more people are finding themselves in a crisis so I fear we will not be able to help everyone, and many could be turned away.”
The council has decided that rather than give people cash - as was the case with the Crisis Loan - recipients will receive support in the form of clothing vouchers, shopping packages ordered online, some travel costs and fuel reconnection charges or top up cards.
However, the council will not be able to recover the cost of the scheme in the way DWP recovered crisis loans by deductions from welfare benefit.
The council has devised strict but fair eligibility criteria for both the Supporting Independence Scheme and Crisis Support Scheme.
The rate of reward for Crisis Support will be £6 per day for food for a single person, £10 for couples and £3 for each dependent.
The council worked closely with the community and voluntary sector to devise its scheme which is designed to reduce repeat claims.
Crisis loans spend by DWP in 2011/12 was £391,100. This is anticipated to be higher in 2012/13.
The funding for crisis loans the council will receive in 2013/14 is £ 222,900 which means a cut of at least £168,200 but it is anticipated to more around £200,000 to £220,000 for 2012/13. Precise figures have yet to be announced.
Page last updated: 1 March, 2013