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Southwark Labour vows to continue emergency support scheme despite government cut


19 November 2014
Southwark’s Labour Cabinet has committed £2.7m in funding to ensure that the Council’s Emergency Support Scheme will be extended until at least 2018, despite government proposing cuts to local welfare provision.
 
The Southwark Emergency Support scheme provides a much-needed safety net for the borough’s most vulnerable resident – families in crisis who need food, gas, white goods or other means of support. However the Government has proposed cutting funding for this scheme, withdrawing £174m that had previously been given to councils to fund local welfare provision, without any consultation with local authorities about the impact of this cut.

Many of the families in need of emergency support in Southwark have been forced into crisis by welfare cuts and benefit sanctions. Last year over 2,000 people were referred to SESS from the Jobcentre Plus alone. Labour councillors anticipate that with the introduction of Universal Credit these numbers will rise even higher. 

Despite the deep cuts the council faces in central government funding, Southwark Labour remains firmly committed to retaining the existing level of local welfare provision for the most vulnerable in the borough. Therefore, Southwark’s Labour Cabinet has committed £2.7m funding to ensure that the Council’s Emergency Support Scheme will be extended for the rest of the administration - until at least 2018.
 
Southwark Labour’s welfare lead and cabinet member for finance, Cllr Fiona Colley, said:

“Government cuts to welfare are hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. In the last year we have had over 4,000 referrals to our Emergency Support Scheme - more than half of these referrals came from the
Jobcentre Plus alone and with the introduction of Universal Credit we expect these numbers to rise even higher. Many of these families have been forced into crisis by benefit sanctions, and now the Lib Dems and Tories in Government are cutting funding for the much-needed support the council gives these desperate families.

“Despite the pressures we face with continued government budget cuts, we recognise how important emergency support is to our most vulnerable residents, which is why we are guaranteeing this support for at least the next three years. We are urging the government ministers like Simon Hughes to restore funding for local welfare provision based on actual local need, to ensure those who need this support the most are not left without this essential safety-net.”

In a letter to DWP, Cllr Fiona Colley hit out at the ‘breath-taking cynicism’ of Ministers cutting the funding for local welfare provision, while at the same time expecting councils to continue providing this support. Cllr Colley accused Ministers of “divested themselves of any responsibility for our poorest and most vulnerable and presented local government with an unsustainable mandate, while hiding behind the increasingly hollow rhetoric of a so called localism.” Southwark, along with Labour councils across the country, is urging government ministers to restore the funding, to enable local authorities to meet the real needs of the most vulnerable residents at times of genuine crisis. 


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