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Digest: Local welfare assistance payouts fall by 75%

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Successful applications for crisis support have plummeted by 75% since the government devolved responsibility to councils for providing emergency help to families, research has found.

A report published yesterday by the Children’s Society said cuts to funding for local welfare assistance schemes providing assistance to people struggling to afford basic needs such as food, clothing and heating are leaving parents hit by in-work poverty, Universal Credit delays and the benefits freeze at risk of debt.

Responses to freedom of information requests show 737,000 of the 1.3 million applications for crisis support were successful in 2012-13, when responsibilities for support was devolved to councils. The specific government grant for this type of support ended in 2015 and successful applications fell to 320,000 in 2015-16. In 2017-18, 284,000 applications were made and 187,000 met the criteria for support.

The report says a third of councils do not specifically take children into account when considering applications and estimates more than a quarter of the unsuccessful applications last year were from children with families.

The Children Society said the fall in overall applications is a result of strict criteria being applied by councils, including some imposing a requirement for people to have already explored accessing a food bank or borrowing from relatives or a commercial lender.

The Children’s Society’s chief executive Nick Roseveare said: “At a time when families need support more than ever this vital source of help is drying up.

“An unexpected event like a broken boiler or long-term sickness, can tip a family into crisis and this kind of support can be the difference between them keeping their heads above water or drowning in debt and ending up hungry or homeless.”

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