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Proposals to consult on discretionary fund

Published: 4 January 2024

Proposals to consult on changes to Derbyshire Discretionary Fund (DDF) to ensure it continues to support the county’s most vulnerable residents are set to be discussed next week.

Cabinet will be asked to agree to seek the public’s views on 4 proposed changes to the DDF which includes an increase in the amount paid out in an emergency.

At a meeting on 11 January 2024, Cabinet will hear that there’s been a huge increase in demand for the fund which offers support to help residents facing crisis and emergency situations.

Cabinet will also be told that to ensure those who need help most are supported, changes to the policy need to be considered.

Cabinet member for health and communities Councillor Carol Hart said:

“The Derbyshire Discretionary Fund is a vital fund that helps the most vulnerable people in our communities, especially at a time of increased cost of living pressures.

“We need to ensure we can continue to help those residents who need us most.”

Currently, the DDF operates on a direct application basis and offers 2 kinds of support:

  • emergency cash payments which can be used to buy food and heating - currently £54 plus an additional £10 per affected householder
  • exceptional pressure grants, which help people with essential household equipment or to otherwise ease financial pressure on families who don’t have the means themselves

Options in the proposed consultation are designed to help the council use the available budget in the best way possible to support the most vulnerable people in Derbyshire.

The proposals outlined in the Cabinet report are:

  • increase the amount payable in an emergency cash payment in line with either inflation or increases in benefit rates
  • develop criteria for a ‘budget brake’ in the fund - to help the council reprioritise it at times of greatest demand. A similar approach is used in Scotland
  • limit the maximum number of emergency cash payments to 2 in any 12-month period - it currently stands at 3. This would be in line with most other councils that offer this kind of support
  • change the scope of items that can be awarded as an exceptional pressure grant

Councillor Hart added:

“The DDF helps us to ensure funds reach a wide range of households needing financial support in an emergency, including those who may not currently be claiming welfare benefits.

“We need to ensure it reaches those who need it most and with demand on the fund rising, we need to consider consulting on changing the way we allocate it so we can continue with this support.

“I’d like to reassure residents that if Cabinet agrees to consult on the fund, no decisions would be made until everyone’s views were taken into account.”

If Cabinet agrees the proposals, an 8-week consultation would launch on 22 January 2024.