UK to start giving food stamps, not cash, to poor

LONDON (AP) - Local governments in Britain say they will be issuing "food stamps" - vouchers for food and other essentials - to the poor to replace cash loans as part of the country's welfare reforms.

Many Britons with low incomes who qualify for emergency help will no longer be able to obtain cash from authorities, who will instead dish out payment cards for food, gas and electricity. Some will offer one-time payments for furniture and household goods.

Britain now runs a national social fund that gives small emergency loans to poor people to tide them over short-term crises, but that fund will be abolished next week. Instead, local governments must come up with their own replacement plans.

The Conservative-led government said on Wednesday the changes will make the welfare system more efficient.

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