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Council warns vulnerable residents as coalition axe falls on £172m welfare grant

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Council warns vulnerable residents as coalition axe falls on £172m welfare grant

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Finance

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Islington council is warning its vulnerable residents that things are about to get tougher for them as the government axes the Local Welfare Provision Grant.

The £172 million national scheme, which the council says it uses its share of to provide essential goods and small cash payments to residents in crisis, is to be scrapped from 2015/16.

The council says it is on target to spend all of its 2013/14 allocation of £1.2m and expects to do the same with next year's pot.

Islington uses the funds to provide crisis grants through its resident support scheme, which includes other funding pots such as discretionary housing payments.

Cllr Andy Hull, the council’s executive member for finance and performance, said: "This is another big blow dealt by the government to Islington Council, local charities, the homeless and the vulnerable.

"We've been using our resident support scheme to shield our poorest residents from the worst impacts of the government’s welfare reforms.

"All the money we have spent from the fund has helped those in genuine need – keeping families together, sustaining tenancies and helping residents on the breadline to survive."

With no money offered to compensate the council for the £1.2m a year cut, the council has complained that the funding axe follows the government's decision to cut more than £20m (11%) from the local authority's core grant next year alone (2014/15).

In 2012, concerned that aspects of the welfare grant fund were to be devolved with a reduced budget, the council teamed up with a local grant-giving charity, the Cripplegate Foundation, to look at how Islington residents' needs could best be met, which resulted in the creation of the resident support scheme (RSS).

RSS recipients have included 964 people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, 408 who have a long-term limiting health condition, 503 who have a mental health problem and 309 with a physical disability.

Kristina Glenn, director at the Cripplegate Foundation, said: "Cripplegate Foundation is an independent funder that works in Islington to tackle poverty and inequality. We set up our pioneering Resident Support Scheme with Islington Council in April 2013.

"It is reaching the most vulnerable Islington residents, providing practical help and transforming people’s lives. It is cost effective and works well. Any threat to this scheme is alarming and could impact on the lives of Islington’s poorest."

One resident who has been helped by the RSS is 'Maria' (not her real name).

'Maria' was subjected to severe abuse at the hands of her husband and his family. Due to her partner's control of her finances she had no money and could not pay for a new home for her and her young child.

With nothing to her name, and no relatives in the UK, she fled to a Solace Women's Aid refuge taking only what she could carry.

Solace arranged a lease on an unfurnished flat and made a crisis grant application to Islington's RSS for essential furniture such as an oven and fridge, as well as a bed so Maria could provide a real home to her child.

Solace offered her three months' support - working closely with the RSS - ensuring she was linked in with employment support, money advice and education to manage her long term circumstances.

The security Solace Women's Aid and Islington's RSS brings has allowed Maria and her child to begin the task of rebuilding their lives.

Cllr Andy Hull added: "This decision is short-sighted and will cost councils, residents and the government in the long run. We have not been properly consulted on this decision or how it might affect the most disadvantaged, whom the scheme exists to help.

"This is yet another large sum of money for us to try to find and will mean more tough choices to prioritise support for Islington's most vulnerable residents.

"The government is making the cuts, but local authorities have to implement them."

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