Emergency fund to help Lancashire residents facing a financial crisis falls by over 80 percent

Responsibility for crisis support funds was devolved from central government to local councils in 2013
Responsibility for crisis support funds was devolved from central government to local councils in 2013
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The money available from a special fund to help people in Lancashire who find themselves facing a sudden financial crisis has dropped by 84 percent in the past five years.

The success rate of individual applications to Lancashire County Council’s crisis support scheme for low income households is also down by more than half.

In 2013/14, three out of every four people who sought help from the fund were granted it, but by 2017/18, that ratio had fallen to just one in three. 37,000 residents applied for support over that four-year period.

The figures - obtained by the charity Church Action On Poverty and shared with the Local Democracy Reporting Service - show that the fall in funding in Lancashire is above an average drop nationwide of 72 percent. £3.5m was made available across the county in 2013/14, but that had dropped to £574,000 by 2017/18.

The fund used to be administered by central government, but responsibility was passed to local authorities back in 2013 - and the budget which Whitehall made available for councils to continue the work was almost halved.

In Lancashire, the declining pot of money is used to supply food parcels and help with heating costs when people are experiencing a short-term financial crisis “beyond their control”. The aim of the scheme is to tide people over and help keep them independent.

Applications are limited to two per year and residents are referred to other organisations who can help if they need further assistance.

Household items such as cookers and furniture can also be supplied as part of the programme - provided a household meets certain eligibility criteria.

Commenting on the reduction in the fund, County Councillor Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "We used to receive funding through the Government's Care and Urgent Needs fund, which we used to fund this service.

"However, this is no longer available, which has led to a reduction in the amount we can invest in the service.

"We've also had to make further savings because of the challenging financial position the council faces.

"This means we have to protect essential services for the most vulnerable in our community such as people who need adult and children's social care."

One in four councils across the country have closed their welfare assistance funds altogether.

A spokesperson for Church Action On Poverty said: “It's vital that there are lifelines for people to reach for when they are swept into crisis.

“In 2012/13, crisis support in England totalled £240m. Researchers estimate last year's total budget was only £46.6m. People who need support cannot access it, and support varies hugely according to where people live - this simply isn't right.”