Local welfare assistance scheme and best practise
By Alexis Darby, Head of Advocacy, Policy and Research, GMPA
As the cost-of-living crisis continues, more people are struggling to make ends meet. At GMPA we work with the ten local authorities across Greater Manchester to strengthen their local welfare assistance schemes. Whilst schemes aren’t statutory and don’t have ringfenced funding, all ten authorities in the city region have worked hard to retain local provision which is a lifeline for people experiencing financial hardship.
Our new briefing ‘Local welfare assistance schemes – best practise for local authorities’ explains the guiding principles of local welfare assistance schemes along with examples of best practise from four local authorities across the UK: Greenwich, Norfolk, Newcastle and Moray. Learning from other councils provides an opportunity to benefit from improvements to schemes that have been tried and tested elsewhere.
There are a number of proactive measures that local authorities in Greater Manchester can take that would immediately improve access to support and outcomes for residents in financial crisis across the city region:
- A cash first approach to local welfare provision would maximise dignity, choice, and control for recipients of support.
- Schemes should be resident-focused, identifying a clear and sustainable pathway out of poverty rather than simply offering a one-off transactional piece of support.
- Partnership working both within the council and with external partners is vital to ensure there is awareness of local welfare assistance scheme provision and so that schemes sit within a wider, clearly identified support offer to financially vulnerable residents.
Local welfare assistance schemes should not only mitigate an immediate crisis but help people find sustainable pathways out of poverty.
The importance of Socio-economic duty
GMPA’s vision is of a Greater Manchester free from poverty where all residents can realise their potential and access the benefits of living in a diverse and vibrant city region. A foundation of achieving this vision is the socio-economic duty. However, successive governments have chosen not to enact the duty, which is contained in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010. If enacted, it would legally require public authorities to consider the way their decisions increase or decrease inequalities that result from socio-economic disadvantage.
In the absence of enactment at a national level, a number of local and combined authorities are choosing to voluntarily adopt the duty. We are delighted that the duty is being taken by a number of Greater Manchester councils and was recommended for adoption by the Combined Authority in the Greater Manchester Independent Inequalities Commission report.
Our new briefing ‘The current scale of the socio-economic duty in England’ sets out the scale of voluntary adoption of the socio-economic duty by local authorities in England, based on data from Freedom of Information requests GMPA submitted. We’ve seen an increased level of interest in the duty from local authorities over the last twelve months with 39 Councils in England now having formally adopted the duty. Our data shows that six out of nine regions have a high percentage of councils considering socio-economic status within all equality impact assessments and equality frameworks. It’s great to see so many working in the spirit of the duty ahead of (hopefully) adopting it. At GMPA we offer guidance for local authorities and other public bodies on ways they can ensure implementation is done in a way that has maximum impact. You can read our practical guide for implementing the duty here.
We hope you find our briefings useful. At GMPA we work to support local authorities, the Combined Authority and other public bodies on actions, programmes and policy interventions they can take to reduce and prevent poverty across the city region.