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Cuts to cash from poverty-stricken people sees Islington Council in another legal battle

11:29 29 July 2014

Andy Hull

Andy Hull

Archant

The scrapping of a fund to help victims of domestic violence, homeless people and poverty-stricken pensioners has seen the town hall in yet another legal wrangle.

How the fund is used in Islington:

n Cash from the fund helped teenage brothers Fabian and Jordan stay out of care when their mother left. The money was used to buy rehouse them with their father and enable them to study and live at home.

n Anna, a mum with a young child who had been abused by her husband and his family, was able to rebuild both their lives thanks to the fund after it was used to get furniture for her new flat, as well as help her to get a job and manage her money.

n Mr Holroyd, who lives alone in a high-rise building, is rarely able to go outside due to his chronic back pain. He had a worn-out bed and no way to wash his own clothes. Money from the LWPF helped get him a new bed and washing machine.

Names have been changed to protect identities

Islington Council will join the Child Poverty Action group and a disabled man from Cheshire to take High Court action against a joint decision by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to axe the Local Welfare Provision Fund (LWPF) next April.

The borough’s £3.2million share is used to help out thousands of Islington families in serious hardship, as well as pregnant mothers, care leavers and people suffering from chronic physical and mental health problems.

Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s executive member for finance, said: “The government are tearing away what little is left of the safety net, driving people to foodbanks and payday lenders, but getting them even to admit it is like pulling teeth.

“They say they’re not cutting the funding, yet they’re cutting the money. Beneath the doublespeak, this is yet another blow to the most vulnerable in our society who are already reeling from successive social security cuts.”

“For the Government to say the council should now somehow pick up the bill is disingenuous when they have cut a third off our budget over the past four years and look set to cut another third off it in the four years to come. They are trying to transfer the risk and cost of its welfare reforms to local authorities.”

“Any civilised Government would recognise that this fund is a lifeline, not a luxury. All the money we have spent from the fund has supported those in real need – keeping families together, sustaining tenancies and helping residents on the breadline to survive.

“So, here in Islington we are making a stand on behalf of the tens of thousands of people across the country who badly need this support.”

During the last couple of years the council have taken legal action over office to flat conversions, GCSE grades, affordable rents and the number of concerts held at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

A government spokesperson said: “We reformed the Social Fund and replaced it with local provision. In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted councils can now choose how to best to support those most in need.

“It is for local councils to decide how they spend their budgets.

“After April 2015 Councils will continue to have responsibility for providing support to those in their community who face financial difficulties or who find themselves in unavoidable circumstances, and will be funded through their Central Government grant to do so.”

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