Brighton & Hove Food Partnership is calling for national Government to provide protected funds for people in the city facing a sudden crisis. It follows revelations that the funding available today for emergency help with food, energy bills and other essentials is less than a quarter of that available five years ago.
Research by Church Action on Poverty using Freedom of Information requests shows that Brighton and Hove City Council has cut the total funds allocated to its Local Discretionary Social Fund budget by 76% since 2013/4 – from £762,000 to £180,000.
Just 37% of applications made to the fund in 2017/18 were approved.
Emily O’Brien, Policy & Partnerships Manager at the Food Partnership, said: “The situation in Brighton and Hove is actually better than in some areas where schemes have closed entirely. We know that the City Council has tried hard to retain the Local Discretionary Social Fund.
“However, providing a safety net fund for people in crisis should not be left to decision makers in cash-strapped local authorities. It should be a statutory duty to provide this support and the Government should provide ring-fenced and adequate funds for it.”
City food strategy
Until 2013, the Government-run social fund provided emergency grants or loans to people in sudden crisis. In 2013 the fund was closed and councils told to run their own schemes. Some councils now offer no crisis support at all, while others act only to direct people elsewhere, such as to a food bank. Brighton and Hove City Council offers vouchers or items such as second-hand cookers to local people who are eligible for tax credits or benefits and are in sudden crisis.
Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty, said: “The purpose of the social fund was that people could stay afloat and hopefully ride out a crisis, rather than sinking deeper into poverty. A lifeline in times of emergency is a vital part of a compassionate society, but it has been withdrawn in many places and neglected almost everywhere.
“We need the Government in its forthcoming spending review to make it a statutory requirement for top-tier English councils to provide local welfare provision that includes cash grants, loans and in-kind support. We also need the Government to provide ring-fenced funding so the system is fit for purpose.”
Retaining a crisis fund will be an explicit priority in the new Brighton and Hove food strategy action plan, now being finalised by the Food Partnership. It is also an essential element in the Going for Gold bid to become the UK’s first gold Sustainable Food City.
Today’s revelations come at the start of End Hunger Week, which runs from 13-21 October 2018.
Find out more: https://bhfood.org.uk/