Worcester bucking national trends on giving cash to the vulnerable

4:01pm Thursday 1st May 2014

By Tom Edwards

A FORMER Mayor of Worcester has welcomed a £900,000 kitty to help the vulnerable as new figures revealed how the city is bucking national trends.

A national two-year scheme to help people “in crisis” has struggled to take off, with £67 million of government funds yet to be spent around the country.

New data shows how the project, managed by councils, has yet to reach enough people, with many local authorities saying they are struggling to publicise it properly.

In nearby Herefordshire, just one per cent of the £377,000 earmarked towards it for year one has been used, with the council there saying there is not enough demand for it.

Half of all councils still have 60 per cent of their funds for the first financial year, which ended last month, leftover.

The situation is the reverse in Worcester, where almost every penny of the £445,000 put aside in 2013/14 has been used up.

Last year, Worcester City Council agreed to run the scheme for the entire south of the county, including Malvern and Wychavon.

Councillor Roger Berry, cabinet member for health and well-being and a former mayor, said: “The money was given to the county council first but they decided to hand it to the districts to see if we wanted to run it.

“I think our figures are down to the good, successful relationship the council has with the voluntary sector. We rely on their assessments of people’s needs.

“Clearly, there is a need for help in Worcester and our figures show that.

“A lot of it is spent on families being re-housed. I know the LGA (Local Government Association) is lobbying to the Government to get it extended and we support that.”

In south Worcestershire 1,400 people applied for help from the kitty, of which 946 were from Worcester.

In Worcester 44 per cent of vouchers went towards household items, 31 per cent energy costs and 25 per cent on food.

The approach is to not offer cash, but give out vouchers that can be redeemed.

For the 2014/15 financial year south Worcestershire’s allocation is £445,000.

The Government, which used to run a crisis loan scheme via the Department for Work and Pensions, has refused to reveal if it will be extended beyond 2015.

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