Blunkett warns against ‘deception of worst order’ over threat to vulnerable family crisis fund
Former home secretary David Blunkett has warned the Government against “deception of the worst order” as a crisis fund for councils hangs in the balance.
The Labour peer (pictured) argued that the Government’s announcement last week of a further £600 million boost for councils to help with social care services would be undercut if they decide not to renew their Household Support Fund.
The fund, which was set up in September 2021 to help vulnerable families with the cost of essentials like food, clothing and utilities, has provided around £1 billion per year.
However, it is set to finish at the end of March, and the Government is still reviewing whether to continue the scheme.
Lord Blunkett said: “It would be deception of the worst order if the Government were to have announced, as they have over the last few days, a £600 million uplift to upper tier local authorities, only then a few days later to pull the plug on £2 billion.
“And the £10 million that goes into Sheffield has been absolutely crucial in maintaining the wellbeing of thousands of children.
“I appeal to the minister go to back to his colleagues and ensure there isn’t duplicity and that the most vulnerable can continue to get help from April 1.”
His Labour colleague, Baroness Lister of Burtersett, added: “The discretionary Household Support fund has acted as a vital lifeline-cum-sticking plaster filling some of the holes in our totally inadequate social security safety net.
“If, as is feared, the sticking plaster is torn off from April, just two months away, it will leave and deepen a gaping wound of dire hardship.”
She noted the urgency of calls from local authorities for the fund to continue for at least another year, followed by a long-term strategy for local crisis support.
Work and Pensions minister Viscount Younger of Leckie told peers: “An evaluation of the current Household Support Fund scheme is under way to better understand the impact of the funding.
“The current Household Support Fund runs until the end of March 2024 and the Government continues to keep all its existing programmes under review.
“Councils continue to have the flexibility to use funding from the local government finance settlement to provide local welfare assistance.
“As with all Government policies, this remains under review.”
He added that the Government “recognises there are pressures that do remain on household budgets”.
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