London Councils calls on govt to continue local welfare provision, DWP publishes DHP spend by local authority

London Councils have published a report looking at the arrangements London’s local authorities have made for local welfare provision, to replace Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans (axed in early 2013).

The report gives an overview of the local welfare schemes in London:

  • Funding – the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spent £36,334,100 on Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants in London during 2011/12. The total amount of programme funding localised to London local authorities for 2013/14 was £27,177,400; a 25 per cent reduction.
  • Demand – in London there was an average of 6,105 Community Care Grant applications per month during 2011/12 of which an average of 2,586 or 42 per cent were successful. In the same period there was an average of 19,306 monthly applications for a Crisis Loan of which 15,693 or 81 per cent were successful. Combined, over 25,000 applications per month were being lodged in London for the former schemes meaning that if the demand translated to the new local provision, London boroughs could reasonably have expected to be receiving around 800 applications per month each.

It includes case studies of how boroughs have delivered local welfare support, and calls on the government to:

  • continue to provide an identifiable local welfare provision grant to local government from 2015/16 onwards.
  • enter into discussions with the local authority sector to take stock of the lessons learnt from the operations of local welfare provision and Discretionary Housing Payments during the current period of welfare reform. These discussions should work towards establishing a sustainable emergency welfare intervention fund that can be operated at a local level, with additional consideration given to the likely challenges arising from the implementation of cultural changes associated with Universal Credit.

Meanwhile, DWP has published data showing that £20 million specifically earmarked to help people adapt to welfare reforms was not spent by local authorities last year.

The largest underspends among London boroughs were:

  • Westminster (spent £1,258,571 less than its original DHP allocation in 2013-14)
  • Barnet (£781,765 underspend)
  • Camden (£509,258 underspend)
  • Wandsworth (£458,316 underspend)
  • Lewisham (£280,355 underspend)

Islington, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, and Southwark, on the other hand significantly overspent.