Cheshire East Council is launching a local welfare safety net to support residents facing financial hardship as a result of welfare reform.
Councillor Peter Groves, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for finance and assets, said: "The council is committed to building strong and supportive communities and encourages residents to be self-reliant and not dependent on welfare and public services.
"The council understands that this central reform may initially lead to difficult times for some of our residents, which is why we have endorsed a strategy that will positively impact on those who need our help most."
The strategy will focus on helping people to get into and stay in employment, enable access to affordable housing and develop self-reliance and financial responsibility.
The Council established the Emergency AssistanCE scheme, the purpose of which is to support vulnerable people facing immediate hardship, to prevent homelessness, and to keep families together. The scheme provides rent deposits, furniture and white goods (recycled where possible) and emergency food (through local food banks were possible). Unlike the former crisis loans and community care grants administered by the DWP, it does not provide cash.
Cheshire East received transitional funding of £612k in 2013-14 and 2014-15 for its local welfare provision through the Emergency AssistanCE scheme. In 2015-16 no specific grant for local welfare provision was received and the transitional funding of £612k was removed from the Council's budget. Given the uncertainty over future funding, the scheme under spent against its budget in the first two years and an earmarked reserve was created to provide funding for the scheme in 2015-16 and 2016-17. However, there is currently no budget or reserve to fund local welfare provision from April 2017.
The strategy, which was endorsed by the Cabinet at their meeting on Tuesday, 8th November, recommends that £300,000 is included within the Council's budget from April 2017 for local welfare net, reducing to £250,000 in 2018/19 and 2019/20. This budget will be used to fund the Emergency AssistanCE scheme and a range of intervention and prevention activities.