Bid to cut crisis fund ‘would hit vulnerable’
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