Fifteen charities have slammed the government’s consultation on scrapping national poverty payments, accusing it of containing “no analysis” of the needs of vulnerable recipients who stand to be driven deeper into poverty.
The coalition, which includes Homeless Link, Family Action and the National Housing Federation, has written to Department for Work and Pensions minister Steve Webb calling for him to justify his plans to abolish parts of the Social Fund.
The Welfare Reform Bill would scrap community care grants and crisis loans, which are paid to families in emergencies, and give councils the power – but not the duty – to set up similar schemes locally. The Independent Review Service, which reviews Jobcentre Plus decisions, will also be scrapped without any replacement.
The changes have proved very unpopular with anti-poverty groups and welfare rights experts, who warn that social workers’ relationships with their clients could be adversely affected if they had to make decisions about financial payments.
However, in the letter to Webb, the charities said: “The department has issued a call for evidence which has less than four pages of discussion of the government’s proposals, and contains practically no analysis of the needs and circumstances of people who currently receive community care grants and crisis loans. The vision of how local authorities and the devolved administrations will respond to the change is extremely sketchy, and gives no reassurance that an adequate service will be provided. We do not consider that the department has made the case for the proposed changes and – in the context of current spending pressures on local authorities – it seems to us that these proposals will result in radical reduction or abolition of such provision on a wide scale.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The radical reform and simplification of the benefit system through universal credit presents an opportunity to overhaul the outdated Social Fund system. The administration of community care grants and crisis loans is complex, expensive, poorly targeted and open to abuse. These services can be more effectively designed and run locally, benefiting from local knowledge and wider support services.”
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails