Nearly 800 sought help of crisis fund

By Ian Dipple Friday 10 January 2014 Updated: 10/01 10:06

ALMOST 800 people have sought help from a new crisis fund.

In April the Government abolished Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans which were payable to those on income related benefits in certain circumstances to help them pay rent, living expenses or deal with other emergencies. Instead councils were given a grant based on 2011/12 demand and told to design their own scheme as it was decided local authorities were best placed to know what their population needed.

The Local Welfare Assistance scheme was introduced with the focus on providing residents who seek support with practical help rather than pay out cash unless absolutely necessary.

At the time there were concerns raised by borough council officers the amount allocated would be insufficient, as it was less than current demand.

In 2011/12 the council received 2,290 applications for grants and loans with 1,810 approved and more than £228,000 paid out.

But the grant allocated to pay out for this year was just £202,906 with another £43,390 for administration costs.

However in the first seven months of the scheme there have been 915 applications with 781 of those approved. If the current rate of demand continues it means there will be less people provided with support than under the previous scheme.

But Jayne Pickering, the council’s executive director of finance and resources, said the two schemes were fundamentally different and as this was the first year no comparisons could be made.

“This also makes it difficult to estimate total demand or identify seasonal peaks such as in winter when needs may be higher. However as this is a new scheme we are continuing to monitor it closely,” she said.

“The awards are usually decided following a meeting with the individual to discuss their needs and find the most appropriate response, to ensure that they are supported in the right way and that the limited funds that are available get to where they are needed.”

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