North East families have been dealt a further “body blow” according to councillors after the Government announced plans to scrap a £347 million fund used to provide emergency support for households.
Newcastle City Council uses its £1.3m annual share of the local welfare provision to help families faced with being made homeless and paying for food deliveries for those struggling to afford meals.
Council leader Nick Forbes said losing the fund would be a “further devastating blow to the city” and would ultimately mean people going hungry.
He said: “This fund is a much-needed sticking plaster to help families and individuals at times of crisis.
“The city council has recently successfully made a case to Government that we need more of this fund, not less, as the number of people who are seeking help is increasing.
“To abolish it at a time when many other avenues of support are being dismantled would be a body blow for hundreds of families across the city.”
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents authorities in England and Wales, said it was “extremely disappointing” that the latest funding settlement for councils revealed that the fund would not be renewed in 2015.
North East peer, Lord Jeremy Beecham, said the Government’s latest proposal will take them past the next general election and will leave people “stranded” in difficult circumstances.
He said: “This fund has been used by Newcastle City Council to provide crucial support to people facing personal crises in their lives, from help paying the rent to putting food on the table.
“It’s obvious we need to sustain this funding, because we face the impossible task of finding the money from elsewhere.
“A lot of families in our part of the world are suffering badly. There are 4,000 households in the city facing the impact of the bedroom tax and removing this funding will only create further damage.”
A Government spokesman said: “Councils will continue to provide support to those in their community who face financial difficulties or who find themselves in unavoidable circumstances.
“In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted, councils can now choose how to best to support local welfare needs within their areas.
“The Government continues to provide support to local authorities through general funds as part of the Government’s commitment to reducing ring-fencing and ending top-down Whitehall control.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 24 Feb 2014