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The Scottish government have announced [March 2020]:
“£45 million will be added to the existing Scottish Welfare Fund which makes Community Grants and Crisis Grants available to those in immediate need. This more than doubles the current £35.5 million fund, which is administered by local authorities. They will be given more flexibility in how it is used to ensure they can fully support people in financial crisis, including workers in the ‘gig economy’.”
The guideline that Crisis Grants would normally be limited to three per claimant per year has been scrapped. Shirley Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, stated in the Scottish Parliament on 27/3/20:
The regulations governing the Scottish Welfare Fund allow a local authority to make more than 3 payments to an individual in a 12 month period if it considers there are exceptional circumstances. We have written to practitioners in each local authority confirming the provision of an additional £45 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund and noting that we consider the current circumstances to be exceptional.
You apply through your local council. As well as grants the Scottish Welfare Fund can do foodbank referrals. In Edinburgh ring 0131 529 5299 or go to CEC page.
What is the Scottish Welfare Fund?
Community care grants & Crisis grants
ECAP and Residents groups in Edinburgh have had success in supporting claimants for SWF grants by putting forward a case to the claimant’s local councillors. The SWF is administered by local authorities so councillors are ultimately responsible.
We have successfully chased up cases where there was a long delay in making a decision, and also succeeded in getting negative decisions overturned. Edinburgh councillors can be found at here. For other council areas look on the local council website.
The Scottish Welfare Fund is available to anyone on a low income and replaced the DWP “Social Fund” crisis loans and community care grants in April 2013. When these were abolished by the Tory government, the Scottish government began funding them instead. To access these grants, you apply directly to your local council (find direct links below). Each council has it’s own application process.
The DWP Social Fund still exists providing payments such as Hardship Payments, Budgeting Loans etc. please check out The Social Fund page for more details.
What happened to Community Care Grants (CCG) & Crisis Loans (CL) in England & Wales?
Each local council decided for itself whether to replace the CCG and CL with council funds. These are referred to as ‘local welfare assistance schemes’. Some councils have it but some don’t – check individual council websites for more information.
Community Care Grant
Free money. Not a loan therefore no need to repay it.
Budget limited – so claims can succeed some times, fail at others, just due to budget constraints.
This grant is there to help you in any of the following ways:
- to live independently
- to avoid needing to move into institutional care
- to set up a home if you have been homeless
- if you and your family are facing exceptional pressures
- to care for a prisoner or young offender on temporary release
Each council has extensive discretion over how else they award the grant (p3 of “Scottish Welfare Fund – Statutory Guidance, April 2016”)
Reasons for applying for the grant
- Family under pressure
- relationship breakdown / risk of relationship breakdown
- sudden domestic upheaval
- onset or deterioration of disabled family member
- domestic violence
- Prevent entry into institutional/residential care – including hospital
- claimant needs these items to remain a member of community
- without them is at high risk of relapse / being hospitalised / being placed in care
- Leaving institutional/residential care
- Planned resettlement by council or charity
- Prisoner/young offender
- Travelling expenses for visiting separated children pending court decision, visiting sick relatives, funerals, etc.
Examples of what you can apply for
- Cooker (including fitting)
- Bedding – duvet, sheets, covers
- Kitchen utensils, crockery, cutlery
- Electric Heaters
- Washing Machine – including fitting
- Small dining table and 2 chairs
- Bedroom Carpet
The Argos catalogue (in hard copy or online) tends to be used as the baseline for prices. Choose middle price range from that. You must itemise everything individually, or the form may be returned to you insisting that you do so before they process the claim.
Carpets or floor coverings generally not awarded now, unless you can argue a health risk of not having them, which is difficult to win. Families with babies of crawling age can be an exception – you can argue floor is covered in loose concrete and floorboard skelfs which are risking injury to the baby.
The Review (“appeal”) Process
Is the same for both CCG & CG. The first step is the council. Normally always ask for a review – even if you get a partial award, you can get the additional items added in on review. Having an award downgraded is in practice unknown, especially as the money has already been given to the claimant. After the ‘first tier’ review stage go to the SPSO and ask for a ‘second tier’ review. The SPSO are independent of the council & Scottish government. But you have to have gone through the council’s review process first.
During the Review
Possible things that you might argue/emphasise for a CCG Review for a single person could be:
- At risk of being hospitalised
- Because of drink/drugs and mental health conditions
- Condition spiralling out of control
- Likelihood of requiring hospital or detox/rehabilitation treatment
Things to emphasise during a review:
- If we get support for these items claimant will be able to…
- This is the basis on which we have made the claim…
- We feel claimant meets criteria…
- Claimant is at risk…
- Serious health problems…
- We want to help claimant to maintain their place in the community and in order to do that need help with their housing.
- Several occurrences in the past where claimant required treatment and care.
- Claimant is ready to tip over the edge.
Do not decide to go for a budget loan instead of a CCG. Best to refuse a loan from the DWP until the CCG review process is exhausted, because a loan is no patch on real money.
You do not need to be receiving benefits to be able to apply. Similar to budgeting loans except are available for everyone. You can apply if you have run up your repayment limit on budgeting loans. A decision should be made on your application no later than the end of the next working day for CG.
CG are normally limited to 3 in a 12 month period however during the coronavirus pandemic this condition has been dropped. CG can be for household items (furniture, cookers, etc.)
CG are to assist people in an emergency or after a disaster, for example:
- to prevent serious damage or risk to claimant or family health and safety
- is the only way of preventing serious damage or risk
- loss of money or benefits, and need money for food/fuel
- awaiting benefit claim outcome / benefit payment, and need money for food/fuel
- rent in advance (if landlord is not local authority)
- essential household items and furniture if on Incapacity Benefits
- otherwise unable to apply for CCGs and BLs
The Review (“appeal”) Process
If the CG is refused, ask for a review. This is called a ‘First Tier Review’. Once you’ve got a decision, you have 20 days to ask for a review. It must be in writing and signed. The maximum time you should have to wait for a decision on a review for CG applications is no later than the end of the second working day after that on which the review request was made. If that also fails, ask for a ‘Second Tier Review’ from the SPSO – an independent and free ombudsman service separate from the council.
[Sources used = CPAG fact page : http://www.cpag.org.uk/lwas/scottish-welfare-fund Scottish Welfare Fund Guidance : http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0049/00498598.pdf FAQ on Fund : http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/fairerscotland/scottishwelfarefund/Mythbusting-theScottishWelfareFund ]
[Last updated: March 2020]