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Can you get cash in a crisis?

To reduce food insecurity, it is vital that crisis support via direct payments is available in every local authority in the UK. To raise awareness of local authorities taking a cash first approach to food insecurity, IFAN is tracking local authority support in a sample of areas in England.

Explore our map and find out if your council offers cash first support in a crisis. 

Rankings

      CASH OFFERED     

  • Cash is available through the council's Local Welfare Assistance Scheme and/or use of the Household Support Fund.

      CASH OFFERED (RESTRICTED)     

  • Cash is available to some residents in some circumstances, but not most.

      NOT YET RATED     

  • Ranking has not yet been identified.

      UNCLEAR     

  • Unclear - the local authority have not made clear whether cash payments are available.

      NO CASH OFFERED     

  • No cash payment is offered.

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About the project

A cash first approach to food insecurity seeks to raise people's incomes rather than provide in-kind support such as food.  The ultimate goal of a cash first approach is to prevent hardship through structural changes such as increasing social security payments and wages in line with the cost of living.  A cash first approach should also mean that crisis support is available from every local authority through direct cash payments. 

Until 2013, crisis support in the form of cash payments was available to people across the UK through the Discretionary Social Fund (DSF) The DSF was in place for over twenty years, administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) through Jobcentre Plus. It was abolished as part of reforms made to the social security system under austerity.

 

Ten years on from DSF's abolition, crisis support via direct cash payments is available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through replacement schemes. However, in England, an uneven patchwork of local crisis support has emerged. Not all local authorities have a Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (LWAS) and many of these schemes do not distribute cash payments. A postcode lottery shouldn't determine whether someone in need of crisis support has somewhere to turn.

 

IFAN has launched this project to track cash first support in local authorities across England, highlight best practice, and call for cash payments to be made available for people in crisis in every single local authority in the UK. 

Methodology

The sample of local authorities initially included in this project are areas where IFAN has already co-developed a 'Worrying About Money?' cash first referral leaflet alongside local stakeholders. We started with this sample due to our pre-existing knowledge and familiarity with these areas. 

This project looks at both local authority Local Welfare Assistance Schemes (LWAS) as well as local authority use of the Household Support Fund (HSF) and considers if these have been distributed via direct cash payments to people struggling with financial insecurity.  

 

Local Welfare Assistance Schemes (LWAS)

LWAS replaced the DSF in some local authorities in England when this was abolished in 2013. It is not a statutory requirement for local authorities to have a LWAS nor is there a set framework for what a LWAS provides. LWAS can therefore involve white goods, shopping vouchers and cash payments. 

The Household Support Fund (HSF)

From 2021, the UK Government has distributed funding to local authorities under the umbrella of the Household Support Fund. By now, 62% of all local welfare spending in England comes from the Household Support Fund. Local authorities decide how to distribute the fund based on strict guidelines from the DWP, which initially referred frequently to food banks but has since changed to more explicitly promote the use of direct cash or voucher support. The HSF has been allocated to local authorities in several tranches of funding since 2021 and it has not yet been confirmed if it will be extended again past March 2024. One of the reasons that many local authorities cite for not having a system to distribute the HSF via cash payment is the last-minute and insecure nature of this funding. 

Call on your MP to extend the Household Support Fund

The Household Support Fund (HSF) currently accounts for 62% of all local welfare assistance funding in England, yet the DWP has yet to confirm its extension beyond 31st March 2024. Write to your MP and asking for action to extend the HSF and make this a permanent part of our social safety net.

The Household Support Fund currently ends in:

January 2024

Dear [MP Name] MP,

 

Since October 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Household Support (HSF) has been distributed to local authorities across England to help support people struggling with the cost of living. 

 

The Chancellor has yet to announce whether this critical funding will be extended beyond the end of March meanwhile local authorities are in limbo and food banks across the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) are deeply concerned about the impact its removal will have on the need for their services. 

 

I am writing to urge you to call on the Government to permanently extend the HSF. As poverty levels increase across the UK, effective local crisis support is more important than ever so that people struggling to afford food do not have to turn to food banks to get by. 

 

IFAN advocates for a ‘cash first’ (income-focused) approach to food insecurity and campaigns to see a country without the need for charitable food aid. The ultimate goal of a cash first approach is to prevent hardship through a well-functioning social security system and wages that match the cost of living.

 

Such a system also requires adequate crisis support via direct cash payments. Not only do cash first interventions provide more dignity and choice to people facing financial hardship but they are effective at reducing food insecurity.

 

After the abolition of the Discretionary Social Fund in 2013, new schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have replaced this support. Yet, depending on where they live, many people in England do not have access to crisis support via cash payments at all.

 

In the past two years, the HSF has provided England’s local authorities with a vital opportunity to provide such support. Recent data from End Furniture Poverty found that 62% of all local welfare assistance spending was from the HSF.  Its removal will inevitably result in more people falling into poverty, destitution, and severe food insecurity at a time when food banks cannot cope with the current scale of demand. 

 

It’s essential that the HSF be extended beyond March 2024 and be made a permanent part of our social safety net.

 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

 

Yours sincerely,

[Name/Email/Any other contact details]

Get in touch

You can get in touch with the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) about this project at admin@foodaidnetwork.org.uk

You can find out more about a cash first approach to food insecurity on our Why Cash First? page.

For information on local advice and cash first support you can find a 'Worrying About Money?' leaflet.

Many thanks to Anna Gavurin and Clare Gavurin for all their hard work, time and effort to make this project possible. 

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