Interesting one from Frances Ryan at the Guardian ... reduce or eliminate what used to be called the " Social Fund " and , what are the consequences ?


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... ances-ryan


How funding cuts work : First, they come for the furniture.

Local welfare cuts are now so acute that councils are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. What price humanity ?


The consequence of cutting funding for local councils can be seen everywhere – even in a furniture store in Hastings, Sussex.

Fronted by Naomi Ridley, this is a service that collects reusable furniture and electricals – a bed or a fridge, say – and gives discounts to low-income customers. But it’s the service it runs partnered with the council that really tells us something – or to put it another way, is the definition of an effective safety net.

Using funding from East Sussex county council, Ridley’s company bulk-buys new essential goods – beds, cookers, fridges, freezers – stores them in its warehouse, waits for a referral from the council and then delivers them to someone in need.

The funding behind this sounds like jargon – The Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme – but it is a lifeline. When a homeless man is moving into his first flat but can’t afford the furniture, it’s a bed for him to sleep on. If a single mum on low wages sees her oven break, it’s a new cooker to make sure she can feed her kids.

The van crews delivering the essentials know just what this service means, Ridley says. “Just last week the scheme meant we could deliver basic beds to a mother who’d been having to put her daughters to bed on cardboard on the floor, trying to start again after fleeing an abusive partner.”

But last month, the council proposed vast cuts to the local welfare budget: a reduction of 70%.

Last year the budget for the service was £500,000. The new one is £170,000. Flip through the council’s document for the “consultation period” that ends next week and the impact is there in black and white: the cut will mean the council will no longer provide furniture or appliances at all. In a climate of deep austerity, beds for children fleeing domestic violence are now a luxury for which the state won’t pay.

Before the coalition government scrapped it in 2013, there was a nationwide “social fund” for this purpose: a central government-run system of low-cost loans and grants for families in financial emergencies. A state-run alternative to loan sharks and payday lenders.

As austerity hit, ministers pushed the responsibility onto local authorities such as East Sussex to come up with their own schemes, all while issuing a £120m annual funding cut. As I warned last year, within a few years the move saw nearly two-thirds of English councils either close the “welfare assistance schemes” or offer only a threadbare service. Many did away with cash altogether, instead handing out food bank vouchers or redirecting families to local charities. As pressure on councils grows, surviving schemes such as East Sussex’s are now under threat.

This is happening at a time when hardship has reached such levels that families are falling into destitution: as ministers oversee the bedroom tax, universal credit and disability benefit cuts, councils are so stretched that they barely stand a chance to clear up the mess.

East Sussex county council tells me that no decision has been taken over the welfare fund yet and that the cabinet will consider the results of the consultation and an equality impact assessment before coming to a conclusion. But it adds that reductions in central government funding mean it has to find £17m of “savings” this year – that’s on top of the £110m it has already had to cut since 2010 – and that it had “no choice” but to consider reducing a “range of preventative services” in order to push limited resources to areas where they have a “statutory duty”, such as adult social care.

Perhaps this is where austerity takes us in the end.

Cut wide and cut deep enough and politicians start to calculate what human need is greatest and what harm will come if it isn’t met. A sort of weighing up of the least terrible consequence.

When social care underfunding sees 80-year-olds left in their own dirt and wheelchair users left without help to dress, a family skipping meals because they don’t have a working oven is reframed as a barely urgent concern. It’s a sign of the times that if you read East Sussex CC’s explanation for scrapping the furniture and appliances service, it says it needs to concentrate resources on helping people who can’t even afford food and heating.

As we finish our conversation, Ridley shows me some of the testimonies of past clients. “We were homeless for eight months, sleeping in the car. We had no cooker or fridge or money to buy them,” reads one. “Thank goodness for the DESSS scheme. It made me feel human again.” I can’t help but think it’s a sentence that says more than just how one family gained an oven. In the end, these cuts may make us all a little less human.


As many readers who follow the FOODBANKS thread will know , many of the larger ones are now more like department stores than their original purpose.

Suffice to say , the challenge for Trussells and others in this vital sector is to keep up with demand , and not just in the provision of food and other essentials.

The deeper question to ask is ... " Why should we need organisations like Trussells in the first place ? "

It is one thing to be fit and healthy , and able to join the " Rat race " but ... what if you are not , or caring ????


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A Google or any other search ... UK CHARITIES FOR FREE FURNITURE ... will throw up many results , for charities operating both nationally and locally.

Just ensure that ... whatever " Charity " IS a charity ... and not a business operating as one !!!

For some , even Sherlock Homes would have great difficulty in deciding which was which !!!


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Irony ?

The very people who could benefit from reading postings like this one have no , ready , Internet access.