Concern over unused £3.5m poverty fund

Poverty family

More than £3.5m earmarked from the EU for helping the most vulnerable people in the UK is lying unused

29th July 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A European pot of funding to fight poverty in the UK is lying unspent.

More than £3.5 million which has been earmarked to alleviate child poverty and homelessness is at risk of being wasted having so far being failed to be used by the UK government.

Peers have written to the Home Office to express concern, with some of the cash already having to be forfeited.

The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) aims to help alleviate the worst forms of poverty in the EU, such as homelessness, child poverty and food deprivation.

An initial plan to use the money to expand the UK’s Breakfast Club provision failed to meet the fund’s eligibility criteria, and, nearly six years since the fund was launched, the government has yet to find an alternative use for the money.

About £580,000 of unspent cash has so far been taken back - and a further similar amount is at risk of being deducted at the end of the year.

Lord Jay, chairman of the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, said: “The government had an opportunity to help support the most disadvantaged people in the UK but has instead wasted over half a million pounds of its FEAD allocation through its inability to develop a suitable project.

“The committee rejected the government’s explanation that the eligibility rules of the fund were too restrictive, and its administrative requirements too burdensome, noting the many and varied FEAD activities that other Member States have been able to implement.

“The proposed programme to support young refugees and potential victims of modern slavery is very welcome, but it is astonishing that it has taken the Government so long to come up with a possible FEAD project.

“With €600,000 of the UK allocation already gone, a further €600,000 is now at risk. With the prospect of a no deal Brexit on the horizon, the committee has called for urgent clarity on how this would affect the UK’s access to FEAD money.

“The clock is ticking.”

The Home Office said the original plan to use the money for school breakfast clubs had faced "barriers" from eligibility rules and "extensive audit requirements, procurement requirements and administrative costs". There are now plans to use funding for projects for young refugees or "potential victims of modern slavery, some of whom are unaccompanied children and young people".