A new approach to supporting people in Northamptonshire during times of hardship will begin in April.
As part of changes being introduced under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the government is abolishing the discretionary Social Fund elements of Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans.
Instead, the government is providing money directly to local authorities, initially for two years, with an expectation that it will be used to develop assistance for those facing greatest difficulty in managing their income.
Northamptonshire County Council has consulted on how this money could be used locally as well as gathered information about what support and services are already available in the county.
As a result, from 1st April, the council will be offering discretionary support in two ways:
- Emergency and community help: the council is investing in community-based support such as food banks so that these organisations can help people who have an emergency need.
Advice will also be made available on the council’s website to direct people to the most appropriate place for help, such as advice and signposting on debt management, accessing low-cost loans, energy advice or where to go for reconditioned furniture.
- Independent living: this is support which can be applied for to help vulnerable people who are eligible, to live independently in the community and to ease exceptional pressures. This could include people who are leaving institutions or residential care, to help them set up home and move forward in their new lives.
The council will not be running a system of cash loans or grants.
Cabinet member for customer and community services Councillor Heather Smith said: “We have looked at how to best use the money allocated to us by the government to ensure we put in place the right processes to help people who are facing hardship.
“The emergency support is intended to help in times of particular need but is not a long term solution, we will not be offering cash or loans, we will help people in an emergency situation – for example through food banks. At the same time we will offer advice or signposting them to other services to try and prevent similar problems reoccurring.
“We are also using the money to help people who need support to return to or remain in the community and we are working closely with our partners and community organisations on this.
“As we don’t know yet whether the government funding will continue to be provided after the initial two years, we have put in place a system that is both sustainable and does not incur significant administration costs. We will also continue to work with other agencies to prevent duplication and we will be reviewing how the new arrangements are helping people.
“This is about helping people to help themselves by targeting support in the right way, helping to ease exceptional pressures and enabling them to get back on their feet and move forward”.
More information is available on the council's website.