Welfare Reform Bill

Memorandum submitted by Irene Carey (WR 47)

Local support to replace Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for living expenses

Safeguarding the provision of assistance

There needs to be some accountability whereby a local authority has to show that funds are being used to meet the needs which currently Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants are intended to meet, or guidelines as to the situations where local authorities are expected to provide assistance.

As there will be no statutory duty placed on local authorities, there will be no compulsion that they in fact provide the assistance that people turn to the Social fund for at present. There is a risk that local authorities will not provide help of the type people need in a crisis or when affected by illness or disability. There need to be safeguards that local authorities will in fact provide adequate help.

Local authorities may have difficulty recognising any duty to assist people who are not in the groups that they currently have duties towards eg under Community Care and Housing legislation.


Steps need to be taken to ensure the public generally know how they can access the help available. This should be both at local and national level. Local authorities should be required to adequately publish details of how people can access local support and any eligibility criteria.

The lack of standard rules on eligibility and the assistance that can be provided will make it very difficult for advisers to inform people of the help that may be available to them.

There will be a lack of awareness among the public of the help available and where to apply for help.

There are likely to be problems with lack of knowledge and understanding of local authority staff as to what help their authority can provide and how to access it. Staff may believe that rules that apply to other forms of local authority assistance apply to this ‘local support’ resulting in people being turned away or not told about it, before they have even applied.

People are likely to be put off applying for help from their local authority when it is unclear as to the help that may be available and who can be considered for it.

Fairness and justice

Local authorities should provide a right to request a review and the procedure should be standardised nationally.

The proposed ‘local support’ lacks the right to request a review and for decisions to be reviewed by an independent party. This suggests that the system will lack any attempt to deal with people fairly and consistently. It is of particular concern when people may be refused help with essential items in a crisis situation.

People may be refused help because the local authority has not appreciated the full circumstances or understood the consequences of not providing assistance. It could also result from staff not understanding who they can help. Unless there is a review provision, local authorities will be able to treat people in an arbitrary manner and leave people destitute with no redress.

People who are refused assistance may have to resort to using the local authority’s complaints procedure. This is unlikely to be able to deal with matters speedily when people are in urgent need.

Charitable and voluntary assistance

It should not be expected that local charities and voluntary agencies should take over the provision of assistance to people in need. Services such as food banks are a great help to people in crisis. But people should not routinely be expected to rely on such a service in a crisis. Many people find such handouts demeaning and they do not allow for people to make choices in their diet.

Similarly furniture stores do a wonderful job in recycling much needed items to people on low incomes. However people who perhaps need a new bed when they are very sick deserve the dignity of a new item.

If local authorities rely too heavily on local voluntary agencies to provide services, those people whose needs are different are likely to end up without the help they need.

At present people in need can be encouraged to apply for a Community Care Grant because they are entitled to do so, for instance because they receive Pension Credit. Many people will however find it demeaning to have to rely on second hand donations and will be discouraged from seeking help. This will lead to hardship and suffering amongst the most vulnerable people such as those who are seriously ill or have chronic health problems.

Local authorities must be prepared to provide speedy financial assistance where this is the appropriate response to the need.

April 2011