Local Welfare Provision: Asda card clarification

By on 02/04/2013 in News, Rebuttals

As part of the welfare reform programme, the Government has abolished the Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans elements of the Social Fund, which were administered centrally by DWP. From 1 April 2013, responsibility for this emergency welfare provision has been passed to local authorities.

Birmingham's Local Welfare Provision policy was agreed following extensive consultation, starting in autumn 2012. Using the Multi-Agency Welfare Reform Committee, we subjected the draft policy to vigorous scrutiny from voluntary organisations working on the front line of crisis support in the city, which resulted in further amendments.

In shaping the policy, we were determined to achieve two key objectives.

  1. To avoid stigmatising those in crisis by providing ‘vouchers’ or other identifiable tokens that would mark an individual out as the recipient of a Crisis Grant.
  2. We did not want to push vulnerable people further into debt by compelling them to take out a loan. It is worth noting that a sizeable part of the previous Social Fund was based upon the provision of individual loans.

You will find the Cabinet Report and the detailed document setting out the policy here but to summarise, the key elements are:

Crisis Grants

These are designed to meet expenses that have arisen as a consequence of a disaster and cannot be met from any other source. These expenses must be the only way of preventing or mitigating serious risk to the health and safety of the applicant or their immediate family.

Payments would routinely cover the provision of food, nappies and other essential items such as bedding or crockery and will be facilitated via a pre-paid supermarket card. Other forms of support, for example pre-paid bus tickets, will be provided in exceptional circumstances. We are also working with partners to provide short-term assistance to those facing issues around fuel poverty as a result of a crisis situation.

Community Support Grants

These provide furniture and furnishing, white goods and other household goods required to enable people to continue to live independently. Items will be procured via the City Council and delivered direct to the applicant.

There have been suggestions that we have reached some kind of exclusive arrangement with ASDA stores for the Crisis Grants element of the scheme. This is simply not the case.

We are engaged in talks with a wide range of retailers in order to ensure that those in receipt of a Crisis Grant have both choice and easy access to a local outlet. A number of these retailers were unable to join the scheme in time for the 1 April start date. Negotiations with these other retailers are continuing with a view to engaging them in the scheme as soon as is possible.

Contrary to media reports, many other authorities are not providing cash grants. The other Core Cities are all making use of pre-payment cards. Several are taking a loan-based approach, which we in Birmingham have firmly ruled out for the reasons outlined above. Some councils are imposing very stringent long-term residency tests for applicants or making explicit use of vouchers or stamps.

Several welfare changes come into effect this week, including the new Under Occupancy Rules dubbed the ‘Bedroom Tax’. Whilst we cannot as yet fully quantify the impact of these changes, we can safely assume that they will generate much increased demand for a whole range of services of last resort, including the Council's own Local Welfare Provision.

It is for that reason that we intend to keep the operation of the new scheme under review and will be looking to make any necessary modifications in order to protect the interests of vulnerable people.

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  1. estelle boyce says:

    When did this country turn into north korea, if i apply for a loan which i have to pay back surely i’m entitled to decide where and how i spend it and not be dictated to – because like most people, i tend to chose to shop where things are cheapest and this may mean visiting several different shops and not be held hostage to one shops prices

    • geoffc says:

      Estelle – people are not asked to repay. The info below explains the scheme.
      The Local Welfare Provision scheme seeks to assist vulnerable people who are in short term crisis, to meet their needs for food and essential items or to assist them to maintain their independence within the community. The scheme is not intended to replace the council’s statutory obligations, in any way.
      Each application will be treated on an individual basis and the grant-based system will not require applicants to repay any awards made to them.
      Before a grant is awarded the applicant will usually be required to demonstrate that their need cannot be met by another source. This may mean asking for help directly from other agencies or other parts of the council before continuing with an application.
      The scheme is purely discretionary; a customer does not have a statutory right to an award and the amount that can be paid out by the scheme in any financial year will be determined by the amount of funding received from central government.
      Once the scheme fund has been exhausted for the respective financial year, there will be no further awards.
      In order for a claim to be made quickly and accurately you should read the essential information below before deciding to continue with your application.

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