CRISIS loans for some of East Lancashire’s neediest families will be heavily slashed for 2013, it has been revealed.
Government revisions of the Social Fund, which provides emergency payouts for everything from living expenses to furniture for poverty-hit households, will be cut by hundreds of thousands of pounds from this April.
Replacing the Social Fund will be a new Care and Urgent Needs Support scheme, which will be administered by the likes of Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council.
But the budget handed out to serve Lancashire’s 12 districts is just £2.9million – when the payouts for 2011-12 topped £4.56million.
That year’s bill for Burnley alone was £497,000, Hyndburn’s £457,000, Pendle’s £369,700 and Rossendale people claimed £260,200 with thousands of people helped with grants up to around £1,500.
Blackburn with Darwen can look forward to an allocation fund of £645,138 – and their bill for the same 12-month period was more than £953,000.
The county council’s new scheme will be delivered by its new benefits service, administered by One Connect, through its partnership with telecoms giant BT.
County officials say their system will not only concentrate on giving ‘one-off payments’ but will also focus on why individuals require financial assistance, and customers may be directed towards money advice services.
Only two applications by individuals will be nominally be considered as part of the new county set-up in any one year – though this has been criticised by welfare rights campaigners during public consultations.
Final decisions need to be taken on whether assistance will take the form of cash payments or vouchers for goods or services.
Hyndburn Council leader Miles Parkinson said he believed the poorest were being unfairly hit the hardest. He said: “People are being labelled as skivers but unfortunately at certain times of your life, there needs to be a safety net.
“Of course there are always a few individuals who take advantage, but what we are seeing is that those with the least are going to be affected.
“What you don’t see is any major taxation on multi-national companies who put their limited status in other countries, where the tax is lower.
“The government could simply raise millions by saying that any money earned in this country must be taxed in this country.
“It would bring in far more savings.”