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Wirral library staff to be tasked with managing crisis cash handouts
WIRRAL library staff will be tasked with assessing people in crisis and needing an emergency cash handout after the Government scrapped community care grants.
From April, local authorities will take over from the Department for Works and Pensions in managing crisis cash payments.
One-stop shop and library workers will now be among those helping those who need to apply for a new council hardship grant .
The scheme is set to be approved by the ruling cabinet tonight. Documents to go before councillors state the new “Local Welfare Assistance” scheme will replace the current crisis loans and community care grants.
Almost £1.4m of funding will be made available to the council for the programme’s first year.
But chief officers will be expected to find extra cash from their budgets should the number of grants needed exceed this amount.
Library workers will be asked to identify whether people are “potentially eligible” for the support and will help them make an online application.
Council leader Cllr Phil Davies said: “We have been merging libraries and one-stop shops for the past year to create a place where people can get general advice therefore there will be staff there who have the knowledge necessary to help those in need of the money.
“But I am absolutely confident that library staff will be geared up to give this support and help to make online applications.
“That is really important as we know that around 47,000 Wirral residents don’t access to the internet, so it is vital that people use the IT facilities to apply for their benefits.”
Under the DWP’s system, crisis loans are awarded to those in desperate need of short-term funding, while community care grants are aimed at society’s most vulnerable so that they can be more independent.
However, the council plans to administer non-repayable grants during the first year and will try to steer clear of cash payments to avoid “abuse and fraudulent claims.”
The cabinet reports states all staff will be monitored for any “negative impact” the new plans might have and that in the first instance, only a small number of one-stop shop staff will be involved.
The DWP has said it does not want or expect local councils to replicate the existing system as each authority would have to be “flexible” to meet communities’ needs.