March 10 2014 Latest news:
By Tom Payne
Monday, January 13, 2014
Nearly £1million given to Camden Council for the borough’s most vulnerable residents has been withdrawn by the government – prompting fears that many will be left without food and basic provisions.
The grants, known as crisis loans, are a safety net for people struggling with short-term financial difficulties, giving a lifeline to pensioners, single parents and people fleeing domestic violence.
The £856,464 government funding also helps pay for food banks and housing-related support.
The Ham&High understands the council will now be faced with raising £1m out of its own budget in order to continue giving support to an average of 20 people per week who cannot afford to live or seek help elsewhere.
It follows the news that the council must cut £80m from its budget over the next four years after losing half of its central government funding.
This places increased pressure on the council during a period of “unprecedented” financial difficulty said council leader, Cllr Sarah Hayward.
She said: “Everyone who gets help – usually one-off help – is facing some sort of extreme challenge and has nowhere to turn for life’s essentials.
“Food, a rent payment, money to keep the heating and hot water on... the social fund has been a vital safety net for people in desperate need.”
Sally Gimson, Labour councillor for Highgate, said: “We’re going back to a Victorian era where the state doesn’t have a safety net.”
She stressed that the grant was only for people who are “completely desperate” and get into financial trouble “through no fault of their own”.
Vicky Pryce, of the Camden Doorstep project, said support was being “systematically decimated”.
“It is a short-sighted plan, which will prove far more expensive in the long-term as desperate people are denied help,” she said.
“How much more can be taken away from those who have the least and how much more pressure can be placed on local councils who have already had budgets slashed, causing the loss of many support services?”
A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said crisis loans are being scrapped because they “fail to help those most in need”.