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Saturday, 26 July 2014

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Almost 3,000 people turn to emergency Cumbria help scheme

ALMOST 3,000 people have made use of an emergency Cumbria relief scheme in its first year.

Cumbria County Council’s £1.3m Ways to Welfare programme was launched following changes to the discretionary social fund, issued by the Department of Works and Pensions, and in April last year to crisis loans and community.

Around half of that sum has now been spent, helping 2,863 people from April 2013 to March 2014, and funds remain until the end of 2015.

The service has received an average of 55 calls per week and 57 per cent of all people seeking help were men.

A report, set to go before Cumbria County Council’s scrutiny and advisory board on Tuesday, reveals the extent the service has been used.

More than half of all callers were referred to food banks and a further 39 per cent have been referred for short-term loans.

In the report Julie Batsford, local welfare assistance manager at Cumbria County Council, said: “During the first year there have been 1,637 instances of financial assistance – 1,181 pre-paid cards, primarily food or energy, 116 furniture vouchers and 149 emergency kitchen pack vouchers allocated to customers.”

Across Cumbria as a whole, 12,430 people received a three-day emergency food parcel in the 2013/14 financial year.

Of those, 4,575 were children.

And the report said the additional costs due at the end of the 2014 to 2015 financial year will add ‘extra pressure’ to Cumbria County Council coffers.

In response the authority is putting together a battle plan combining services to ensure those using them do not suffer.

The meeting takes place on Tuesday, in the Courts, Carlisle, from 10am.

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