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Cut in Barking and Dagenham crisis support service could be ‘devastating’

PUBLISHED: 19:00 26 June 2015

Marie Kearns is concerned the cut in emergency services will have a serious impact on those who use it

Marie Kearns is concerned the cut in emergency services will have a serious impact on those who use it

Archant

A cut in emergency support is predicted to have a “devastating” impact on those most in need.

The warning comes after cabinet members agreed to cease funding for the Local Emergency Support Service, which last year helped more than 3,500 low income residents in times of extreme hardship by providing food vouchers, financial support, furniture and advice.

Marie Kearns, who works with the Citizens Advice Bureau to deliver the service, pleaded with members to consider the impact of the move.

“A lot of people we deal with aren’t in debt,” she said. “They come up against a crisis – the cooker breaks, they can’t find money for school uniform. If they don’t have friends they have nowhere to go apart from Wonga.com.

Last year, the government indicated it would cease funding for the service, but, following considerable lobbying, continued funding it at a reduced level for six months from April.

Now, under pressure from the severe cut in welfare funding, Barking and Dagenham Council is pulling the reduced funding of £205,000 over six months. It is not yet clear what form the two pilot schemes intended to replace the scheme will take.

“This is a crisis fund, it’s for people in absolute crisis,” said Marie, speaking after the meeting.

“It’s a small amount of money in terms of what it delivers. What will happen to the people who use it? It could be devastating if nothing stable is put in its place.”

Marie also expressed concerns that the provision, which is mostly used as a one-off safety net for those not eligible for other public funds such as Section 17, acts as a firewall for other services.

Members defended the decision, citing the uncertainty surrounding the next week’s emergency budget, when the government is due to detail a £12bn cut in welfare spending.

“£200,000 is a drop in the ocean in terms of need,” said Cllr Maureen Worby, cabinet member for adult social care and health.

“But this decision will give us the space and flexibility to respond to what comes on July 8.”


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