The government is proposing to cut the Social Fund, which provides emergency support for poor, sick and vulnerable people in desperate need.
A coalition of charities and welfare groups explains why this is wrong:
Crisis loans and community care grants are the ultimate safety net for the most vulnerable in society. For example, they enable women and children fleeing domestic violence to clothe themselves and furnish their homes; or parents in rural areas who cannot afford a car to visit their child if they are taken into hospital unexpectedly. We are deeply concerned at the government's proposals to abolish these elements of the social fund and pass some of the funding to local authorities, without any statutory obligation to ensure they provide emergency support to vulnerable people.
With councils already experiencing large cuts to central government grants, we fear that some areas will choose to provide no, or extremely limited, support – especially given that funding for crisis loans will be almost halved from £67m in 2010-11 to £36m in 2013. The government's own research shows some local authorities expect the extra funding will be diverted to plug gaps elsewhere.
As charities responding to the needs of vulnerable children and adults in already desperate circumstances, we fear these changes could be catastrophic for some, such as those who resort to illegal moneylenders or high-cost credit, or women who return to live with a violent partner because they have no money to furnish another home for their children. As the Lords prepares to debate social fund reform this week, we urge Lord Freud and the government to rethink these proposals and ensure the money paid to councils to deliver a replacement scheme is at least ringfenced for this purpose.
Anne Marie Carrie Chief executive, Barnardo's
Gillian Guy Chief executive, Citizen's Advice
Cathy Ashley Chief executive, Family Rights Group
Gerri McAndrew Chief executive, Buttle UK
Geraldine Blake Chief executive, Community Links
Fiona Weir Chief executive, Gingerbread
Alison Garnham Chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group
Leslie Morphy Chief executive, Crisis
Denise Murphy Chief executive, Grandparents Plus
Niall Cooper National co-ordinator, Church Action on Poverty
Helen Dent Chief executive, Family Action
Matt Harrison Chief executive, Homeless Link
Charles Fraser Chief executive, St Mungo's
Richard Hawkes Chief executive, Scope
Gill Payne Director of campaigns and neighbourhoods, National Housing Federation
Enver Solomon Policy director, The Children's Society
Rebecca Gill Director of policy, campaigns and communications, Platform 51
Keith Reed Chief executive, Twins and Multiple Births Association
Justin Forsyth Chief executive, Save the Children
Nicola Harwin Chief executive, Women's Aid Federation of England