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Response: Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into the local welfare safety net

By: Vicky Pearlman & Kevin Garvey
Published: October 2015

Response to the Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into the local welfare safety net

Recent changes to mainstream social security have increased pressure on local authorities to provide a basic local safety net.

Locally run schemes have replaced elements of the previously centrally-run Social Fund, and the use of cash-limited discretionary housing payments (DHPs) has been become a mainstream part of the Housing Benefit offer, rather than the marginal role they were intended to play in smoothing out rough edges when first introduced in 2002.

If local welfare assistance is lost, or continues to be too restrictive, then there is absolutely no other emergency fund at a local level that is flexible enough to relieve people in financial crisis and prevent, or relieve, homelessness.

Our key concern is that the Government has devolved responsibility for welfare safety nets, whilst at the same time introducing policies that place people at more risk of needing them. At the same time it has paid insufficient attention to the impact of such reforms, both in terms of a lack of ring-fencing of the budget and monitoring of spending and outcomes.

This response raises concern about the effectiveness of local welfare safety nets, and makes recommendations for improvement.