Bid to cut cri­sis fund ‘would hit vul­ner­a­ble’

Stockport Express - - News - LISA MEAKIN stock­por­t­ex­[email protected]­media.co.uk

APROPOSAL to axe a cri­sis fund that pro­vides food and cloth­ing vouch­ers for home­less and vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents has an­gered a Stock­port coun­cil­lor.

Becky Craw­ford, who rep­re­sents Brin­ning­ton Cen­tral ward, has slammed sug­ges­tions to scrap the ser­vice in a bid to help the cash-strapped coun­cil.

The Stock­port Lo­cal As­sis­tance Scheme (SLAS) was set up in 2013, and re­placed com­mu­nity care grants and loans.

The scheme sup­ports those liv­ing on the streets, es­cap­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, fam­i­lies un­der pres­sure or peo­ple with men­tal health prob­lems or strug­gling with drug or al­co­hol ad­dic­tion.

Vouch­ers, is­sued in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion, can be ex­changed for food, heat­ing, cloth­ing, bed­ding and es­sen­tial house­hold goods.

Since the scheme be­gan it has as­sisted al­most 13,500 peo­ple, from teenagers to pen­sion­ers. In ad­di­tion, the amount of dis­abled ap­pli­cants has also in­creased from 516 in 2016 to 764 in 2018.

Mean­while, most peo­ple who have ap­plied for help live in Brin­ning­ton and Cen­tral – and al­most £400,000 has been al­lo­cated to that area.

The low­est amounts to­talling £10,869 - were as­signed to ap­pli­cants from Bramhall North and South.

But town hall bosses have said slash­ing the fund will save £486,000 with the coun­cil fac­ing a sav­ings tar­get of £16m next year.

Op­po­si­tion coun­cil­lors have al­ready said the move would be ‘a step too far’, de­spite of­fi­cers say­ing the author­ity will look at ways to mit­i­gate the loss.

The pro­pos­als were de­bated by mem­bers of the coun­cil’s adult so­cial care scru­tiny meet­ings.

Coun Craw­ford said aus­ter­ity is hit­ting the most vul­ner­a­ble – and is ‘squeez­ing the bot­tom’ out of the poor­est so­ci­eties.

“Re­mov­ing this pay­ment with no al­ter­na­tive – and there isn’t one even though it’s be­ing looked into – is just leav­ing peo­ple high and dry,” she ar­gued. It’s go­ing to drive so­cial eco­nomic equal­i­ties fur­ther apart in Stock­port, which is the op­po­site of what we’re sup­posed to be do­ing.”

Coun Craw­ford con­tin­ued: “When aus­ter­ity does hit peo­ple liv­ing in Bramhall North and South is that when we are go­ing to start lob­by­ing – and say no, we’ve had enough?

“I’m sorry, but I get re­ally emo­tional about this – and I’m sorry if I come across emo­tional, but I am. This is un­fair – and it’s not right - and ev­ery­body needs to get be­hind this even if it isn’t hap­pen­ing to peo­ple in their ward.

“This is wrong and we need to say enough is enough be­cause it’s too much – it’s just too much.”

Deputy leader Coun Wendy Wild said the cuts are hap­pen­ing be­cause there is ‘so much pres­sure’ on the coun­cil bud­get.

She said: “Of­fi­cers are look­ing at what other op­tions, if any, are avail­able – and what al­ter­na­tive pro­vi­sion there could be.

“But I want to em­pha­sise we are in a con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod – and no de­ci­sion has been taken – and I do un­der­stand the points that are be­ing made.”

Coun Wild con­tin­ued: “This is not why I be­came a coun­cil­lor – and you know me and the way I op­er­ate. I will hear the re­sults of the con­sul­ta­tion – and I would also en­cour­age ev­ery­one to re­spond to it.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the con­sul­ta­tion, which ends next month, visit con­sul­ta­tion.stock­port.gov.uk./

●●Coun Becky Craw­ford

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