24 September, 2021
StepChange Debt Charity supports the call by cross-party group London Councils for the Government to use the upcoming Spending Review to increase local authorities’ resources for providing emergency assistance to those at risk of financial crisis.
In London, polling earlier in the year by YouGov for StepChange found that 1% of Londoners received a discretionary housing payment and 2% received other support (like a voucher or grant) from their local authority. However, later polling data in August showed that 10% of London adults who rent or pay mortgage on their home reported being in rent or mortgage arrears, and 5% expected to have to leave their home because they could no longer afford their housing costs, suggesting that a gap remains between the problems people are facing and the support they are able to access.
As London Councils points out, direct funding for local welfare assistance was abolished from 2015/16, and rolled into the core local government grant (which has been cut by 27% since then). The Covid-19 emergency grants from the government helped to offset the costs of local welfare assistance provision in 2020/21, but these have come to an end in 2021/22. The national budget for discretionary housing payments has also seen a 22 per cent reduction in 2021/22.
Peter Tutton, Head of Policy at StepChange said:
“Many councils have only been able to provide welcome temporary support because of dedicated Covid funding from central Government, against a backdrop of years of decline. What the pandemic has shown is that such schemes can be vitally important to people experiencing debt and hardship, and should be expanded rather than withdrawn.
“The existing postcode lottery, where support is available in some local authorities but not others, should be replaced by dedicated funding to enable local authorities to deliver a more consistent level of support – especially given the £360 million rent debt backlog from Covid that is still hanging over UK households.”
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Notes to Editors
- Further information on StepChange’s January polling can be found in this report
- Further information on StepChange’s August polling can be found in this press release