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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Question by Martin Vye to Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council

October 25, 2014 7:50 PM

Given the increasing number of residents of Kent falling into food poverty, as evidenced by those needing to make use of Foodbanks, will the Leader

  • undertake to make safeguarding of the budget for the Kent Support and Assistance Service a priority for 2015/16, in the case that Government does not continue its funding of this service; and
  • will he take steps to ensure that the County Council, as the strategic lead authority for Kent, uses its influence to help coordinate the response to the crisis by voluntary and statutory organisations?

Answer provided by Graham Gibbens, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health:

The Kent Support and Assistance Service (KSAS) was established following the abolition of central government operated crisis loans and community care grants, as part of the package of measures to reduce spending nationally on welfare payments. A reduced level of resource was allocated to county and single tier authorities to provide some emergency assistance. KCC used this money to establish KSAS, which is an innovative local welfare provision service that works with the voluntary and community sector and other partners to target funding at those most in need and has moved away from the purely financial transaction model that had previously existed. KSAS now plays a pivotal role by supporting those going through a financial crisis with the provision of information and signposting; emergency support (such as grocery products and reconnection of fuel supply charges); and non-emergency support (such as the provision of furniture, white goods and cookers).

Like Mr Vye, I and the Cabinet wish to express our support for KSAS, which has quickly established a good reputation as a service of first and last resort when Kent residents are faced with a crisis or have no other recourse.

Whilst I cannot make a firm commitment on the future KSAS budget at this stage of the budgetary cycle, I can confirm my preference is for the service to continue. As John Simmonds will inform Council colleagues shortly, in response to Mr Whybrow's question, it is our intention to roll-forward this year's forecast underspend into next year subject to there being no shortfall at the end of this financial year - and at this time, we are on track to balance the books.

It will be possible to provide greater clarity later in the budgetary cycle and a paper on the future of KSAS will be taken to Adults Social Care & Health Cabinet Committee on 4th December. I would be delighted to speak to Mr Vye at that time, when further details will be known, about the actions being taken by the County Council.