Research – A Postcode Lottery of Crisis Support 2020

Budget cuts mean one in five people in England now live in an area where there is no local authority crisis support at all as 25 English councils have closed their schemes entirely, depriving 11.4 million people of vital help.

Our report, The Postcode Lottery of Crisis Support, also reveals that one in four people can no longer apply for essential furniture items from their local authority.

The report adds to a growing body of evidence showing the scale of the crisis facing local welfare assistance in England. For local authorities to be able to adequately respond to the hardship faced by millions of people in our society, a number of key changes are urgently needed.

Key Findings

• As of 2019/20, there has been an 87% real terms decline in expenditure on crisis support since 2010/11. The number of awards given has also fallen by 86%.

•At least 25 upper tier local authorities now have no scheme. We estimate that this has left approximately 11.4 million people in England (around 1 in 5) without any access to crisis support. A further 8.11 million people are living in an area with minimal crisis support.

• Tenants and social landlords currently rely on a highly uneven patchwork of options for acquiring furniture, which includes local welfare assistance, high cost credit, and friends and family.

• Of those who had a local welfare assistance scheme in 2019/20, the amount spent varied considerably. Some local authorities spent as little as £0.01 per capita while one spent £7.54. Two thirds of schemes, however, spent less than £1 per capita

• This geographical unevenness amongst operational schemes was still observed when we account for each local authority’s deprivation level. Although local authorities covering more deprived areas tended to spend more, there were still considerable differences between the amounts that local authorities spent on crisis support.

• While the majority of operational schemes provided furniture and/or white goods, the extent to which they did was also highly fragmented and varies significantly from one local authority to another.

• Based on the number of closed schemes, and those which had a scheme but do not provided furniture, we estimate that around 1 in 4 people in England were living in an area where they cannot get any help obtaining furniture and white goods in 2019/20.

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