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Social Fund – delivering at London level
Report available here.
The discretionary part of the Social Fund will be abolished from April 2013 as a result of the Welfare Reform Act. The part which provides community care grants to vulnerable people on low incomes will be localised, and in London this means that responsibility will be transferred, along with some funding that is not ring-fenced, to the London boroughs. DWP is looking to local authorities to handle crisis loans as well – i.e. helping out families and individuals in the case of emergencies or disasters.
A packed roomful of people from 25 boroughs and 37 other organisations which support people in need, either directly in grants or through relevant services, put their heads together about this at a meeting called by Child Poverty Action Group, London Funders and the Association of Charitable Organisations. The meeting was chaired by Patrick Butler, Editor of society, health and education policy, The Guardian, and informed by a brand new report from CPAG which explains the current structure of, and demand for, the discretionary elements of the Social Fund, and offers guidance to the boroughs in assessing demand and planning their response.
The boroughs are at different stages with some only just settling whose responsibility it will be to take this forward while others are trying to establish how services and communications could work, how to define and delimit the support they might offer, the pros and cons of grants, loans, goods in kind and vouchers, and how to relate to other grantmakers. Some boroughs are in the thick of their planning, with welfare reform task groups drawing on internal expertise and, usually, local advice services and others. There is some multi-borough discussion under way and the meeting gave a fillip to the idea of some pan-London thinking, if the boroughs are to make best use of scarce resources and liaise appropriately with local and national agencies that also fund in this field.
Keep an eye on this page for a more detailed report of the meeting, including some of the key talking points around information and data-sharing, the impact of other welfare benefits changes and the challenges facing charitable funders as the public sector reins in its spending in this vital area.
Read Delivering the Social Fund at London -level: opportunities and risks, CPAG, 2012.
With thanks to Brewin Dolphin for hosting this meeting.