Councils must act to combat destitution
Local welfare assistance schemes are a vital lifeline for people who find themselves in a crisis and without basic essentials, such as food, electricity, or a working oven. It is therefore very worrying that most of these schemes have been cut back considerably in recent years and that 26 local councils have now closed them altogether, including in many areas that we represent (English councils’ local welfare schemes in ‘meltdown’, 12 September).
The Grenfell Tower disaster exposed failings in the local authority’s response to a large-scale emergency. The stories in the report by the Centre for Responsible Credit demonstrate the human cost of failing to respond to the smaller-scale emergencies that hit countless individuals and families every day, due to ill-health, the loss of a job, the breakdown of a relationship, or a spell of homelessness.
Food banks, Citizens Advice offices, and other voluntary sector organisations play an important role in supporting people in crisis, but they are under enormous pressure due to rising demand and funding cuts. This responsibility must be shared with central and local government, who have a moral duty to ensure there is an adequate safety net to stop people from becoming destitute. Paul Butler Bishop of Durham Pete Broadbent Bishop of Willesden and acting bishop of London Alan Smith Bishop of St Albans Christopher Foster Bishop of Portsmouth Stephen Cottrell Bishop of Chelmsford Martyn Snow Bishop of Leicester Michael Ipgrave Bishop of Lichfield • To Grenfell campaigner Edward Daffarn’s list of reparations by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (Grenfell campaigner calls for return of local assets as reparation, 13 September) – the return of the library, the adult education college and the stables to the community – should be added a replacement of the renowned Maxilla nursery and under-fives’ school under the Westway which served Grenfell Tower families until closed by the RBKC – closed on the watch of councillor Elizabeth Campbell, the new leader of the council. Neil Ferguson London