A CRISIS fund that supports people under extreme pressure in Liverpool may be unable to cope with the full impact of the government’s welfare reforms.
That’s the warning from Liverpool City Council following a review of the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme (LCSS).
Welfare chiefs at the council believe more people, including families on low income, could face greater hardship once a raft of changes to the benefit system begin to bite.
A report to the city council’s Cabinet warns there is a risk that the LCSS could become ‘exhausted’ if future demand increases. The report further suggests that more people may have to rely on other forms of crisis funding to help with essentials such as food and fuel bills.
The scheme was set up by the council in 2013 after the government scrapped The Department for Work and Pensions’ Discretionary Social Fund.
The £3M pot provides a lifeline for some of the city’s most disadvantaged citizens, including families facing extreme financial hardship, young people leaving care, people with chronic or terminal illnesses and those fleeing domestic abuse.
It provides urgent support to help people and families in crisis to meet immediate living costs and pay for food, clothes and fuel. It also helps people on low income to set up home by providing furniture and domestic appliances.
The fund helps to reduce the risks to people which in turn helps to reduce the demand on other council services such as adult and children’s social care and homelessness advice.
In 2017/18 more than 13,000 awards were made from the Citizens Support Scheme, a nearly six per cent increase on the previous year.
And while the scheme remains in budget, the report warns: “Due to the growing effects of the government’s welfare reform programme, in particular the roll out of Universal Credit, the scheme has come under increasing demand. It is anticipated that the Reduced Benefit Cap and the so-called ‘two child policy’ may further increase demand from families and children.”
Last year, the council conducted its own cumulative impact report into the introduction of multiple government-backed welfare reforms. The assessment highlighted: “Significant disproportionate impact of welfare reform on disabled people, women, people with children, young people and social sector tenants aged 40-59.” The assessment also highlighted the potential strains on people in employment but on a low income.
The report into the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme, which was considered by the council’s Cabinet at its meeting on Friday 25 May, states: “The Citizens Support Scheme cannot mitigate the multiple impacts of the government’s programme however it can serve to support those identified as most in need, in conjunction with other forms of advice and support.”
The report concludes that the council will continue to use the LCSS in conjunction with other forms of crisis funding, including Discretionary Housing Payments and the Mayoral Hardship Fund. Cabinet members were asked to note the changes the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme policy which highlight the potential impact of the government’s welfare reforms.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, said: “The Citizens Support Scheme was created to provide people in dire circumstances with the absolute basics they need to survive. It puts food on the table, keeps families warm in winter and keeps people away from loan sharks. Its value in providing support to some this city’s most under pressure citizens cannot be overstated. But the message from this report is clear – as the government’s welfare reform agenda continues to gather pace, more people in Liverpool will suffer. As a consequence demand for the support scheme will only increase and our concern is that it will soon outstrip the resources we have available.”
“The council is doing all it can to combat hardship and poverty in this city and we will continue to look at new and innovative ways to support our citizens. It is our duty to highlight the issues affecting the scheme so everyone is aware of the pressures we are facing