A scheme providing emergency help for the poorest people in West Sussex has had its funding slashed by more than 80 per cent since its launch.
The Local Assistance Network was set up in 2013/14 to help those most in need in times of crisis.
The assistance scheme has seen West Sussex County Council give everything from food and clothing to travel costs and furniture to people in dire need.
Until 2015, money for the fund came from the Department for Work and Pensions, but when this was dropped it fell to the council to plug the gap.
Figures from campaigners Church Action on Poverty, showed that the amount of money put into the service dropped from £1.25m in 2013/14 to £788,200 in 2018/19 – a fall of 36.9 per cent.
The council recently cut funding again – to £200,000 in 2019/20 – a total fall of 84 per cent.
It’s a picture repeated all over the country.
While the West Sussex scheme could be seen as a mere shadow of its former self, the county has proved more fortunate than others – 28 councils have closed theirs completely.
West Sussex has received 27,589 applications for help since the scheme was launched, with 4,976 grants approved in 2018/19.
Since 2013, benefit delays have been the main reason people have been forced to ask for help.
Amanda Jupp, cabinet member for adults and health, said: “The council is still investing £200,000 in 2019/20 which is to help people who have no other ways of getting assistance and are – for example – on low incomes or facing an unforeseen emergency.
“Some of the funding will support several local social enterprises and the Citizens Advice network.
“West Sussex County Council continues to face significant financial pressure.
“In light of this challenging financial situation, we are having to give very careful consideration to the future funding of all services, especially those which are non-statutory.
“I would like to assure everyone that we will continue to work with our key partners and organisations to support people in a crisis.”
A spokesman for Church Action on Poverty said: “The local welfare system has become so fragmented and threadbare that thousands of people are now left struggling to stay afloat in times of need and people’s ability to access emergency support during times of crisis depends on where they happen to live.
“People who need crisis support and cannot access it are at increased risk of hunger, debt and destitution.
“As a compassionate society, we need to ensure the system can prevent people being swept further into difficulty.”