Emergency support in the social security system

Reforming emergency support to reduce demand for food banks

Child Poverty Action Group
March 2022

How do we reduce the need for food banks? Child Poverty Action Group carried out two years of research and analysis to outline the role emergency support should play, and what needs to change to make this a reality. The report includes short- and long-term recommendations for England, Scotland and Wales.

The report recommends emergency support should include four types of payment:

  1. Key stage development payments for short-term cost increases associated with raising children that can push families into financial crises. These include costs associated with the birth of a child, school transitions and meals during the school holidays. These would complement and learn from already existing payments such as Sure Start maternity grants in England and best start grants in Scotland.
  2. Lumpy costs payments to cover one-off costs that are difficult to save up for if you are on a persistently low income. They would cover things such as purchasing and replacing essential household white goods, advance rent payments, and childcare deposits. Unsuccessful applicants could then be referred for budgeting advances and no-interest loans.
  3. Transitional payments to cover the costs associated with a life shock or transitional phase that can cause a sudden income drop or increase in costs such as: homelessness, relationship breakdown, leaving care or prison. Payments might include, for example, help with furniture once re-housed in a part-furnished or empty property.
  4. Emergency payments to cover the cost of essentials following an unexpected crisis that can cause a sudden drop in, or loss of, income or an increase in costs. Circumstances that qualify someone for an emergency grant would include, for example, being made redundant, the onset of a health condition, bereavement, separation or divorce.

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emergency support