FUNDING for people facing crisis in Wiltshire due to financial issues has dropped 93 per cent in six years.

Figures released in a new report by charity Church Action on Poverty suggest Wiltshire Council cut spending on these emergency grants from £750k in 2013 to £50k last year.

The money is part of a Local Welfare Assistance Scheme meant to help people with little or no spare income to pay for emergencies such as a broken boiler, flooding or lack of money caused by benefit problems.

It was set up in 2013 and was funded by central government until 2015, but since then local authorities were left to decide how much money would continue with the fund.

The council’s head of revenues and benefits, Ian Brown, said the funding was originally provided as a specific grant to the authority in 2013 “to cope with the introduction of a wealth of welfare reforms”.

“These grants are still being used to fund the scheme,” he said. “Whatever we had left at the end of each subsequent financial year was rolled forward to the following year.

“We have around £33,000 left to operate the scheme in 2019/20.”

Mr Brown said the demand for the welfare scheme will be reviewed over the next six months and consider “the scope of the support we make available”, which means “focusing on those in most need, rather than those who have repeatedly used the scheme since its introduction”.

Wiltshire Council’s website says there are two ways to get help through the authority’s local welfare provision scheme.

The first is critical short-term help in the form of crisis support, including to help people who have no food or means of getting any, or no gas or electric on their meter.

The second is household support, to “establish or maintain independent living in the community”, which can include a purchase of a one-off item such as a fridge, and can be used for those moving from temporary accommodation, or leaving prison or care.

The council can also direct those making applications to other organisations or charities who can provide specific support.

Local welfare provision applications to Wiltshire Council have reached 9,654, with 119 approved last year.

Niall Cooper, the director of Church Action on Poverty, said: “The purpose of the social fund was that people could stay afloat and hopefully ride out a crisis, rather than sinking deeper into poverty.

“A lifeline in times of emergency is a vital part of a compassionate society, but it has been withdrawn in many places and neglected almost everywhere.”