A NEW crisis fund to help people in extreme financial hardship may be established by the Isle of Wight Council.
The Local Assistance Scheme, if approved, would replace the current Social Fund scheme, which is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and due to be abolished on March 31.
Responsibility for administering crisis grants — used to help people in emergencies, provide help to those leaving care or prison, or pay for food, clothing, furniture and white goods — is set to be transferred to the council from April 1.
Some Social Fund elements, including winter fuel payments and maternity grants, will remain the responsibility of the DWP.
Providing it is approved, as recommended in a delegated decision report published today (Monday), the Local Assistance Scheme will run as a pilot project for two years, funded by the government to the tune of £344,000 a year to pay for the grants.
A more permanent system would follow.
Each application would be assessed on its merits however, the government has said the funding is for people in extreme hardship, after concerns were raised by charities that local authorities might divert funds away from those most in need of emergency support.
Grants would only be available to residents with an established link to the Island and no more than three grants can be given in a 12-month period. Applicants must also show all other avenues of support have been explored before their claim is considered.