Crisis fund for vulnerable Wakefield people slashed by half

Some local welfare assistance schemes have been axed since the government pulled its own funding.
Some local welfare assistance schemes have been axed since the government pulled its own funding.

Vulnerable people who receive their benefits late or are hit by flooding are finding it increasingly hard to get emergency cash.

A crisis fund for people in Wakefield who need urgent financial support after being hit by unforeseen circumstances has more than halved since 2013, according to data by the charity Church Action on Poverty.

The number of people receiving money from the fund has fallen.

The number of people receiving money from the fund has fallen.

The local welfare assistance scheme is less than £560,000 deep this financial year, compared to the £1.1m that was available six years ago.

The scheme was set up by central government in 2013 to replace the old social fund, but it later axed its own financial contribution and said it was up to local councils to keep it going themselves.

Over the same time period, the proportion of those being approved for help from the fund in the Wakefield district has fallen from 64 per cent to 55 per cent.

Similar sized cuts to welfare schemes have been seen across the country, and some councils have even closed them altogether.

Church Action on Poverty director Niall Cooper said people in financial difficulties faced being "cut adrift" as a result.

He said: "A compassionate society ensures people can access help in times of crisis.

"That’s what the social fund was there for: to help people stay afloat in turbulent times. The lifeline has been allowed to disintegrate, meaning people in sudden need are swept deeper into poverty.

"While we are glad that all Yorkshire councils still operate local welfare assistance schemes, funding has reduced across the region, including in Wakefield.

"We need government and councils to work together to ensure these vital lifelines are adequately funded."

Guidelines over who is entitled to the cash vary between places.

Gillian Connolly, Wakefield Council's corporate director for business change said: "The local welfare provision scheme is designed to help vulnerable people living in the district in times of emergency or crisis who do not have access to sufficient funds to meet their immediate needs.

"All applications for assistance are considered on an individual basis, however, guidelines are followed to ensure a consistent approach is followed."

"From 2015/16 the scheme was no longer funded by the government, and Wakefield Council was one of the local authorities that decided to continue with the fund.”