The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015 places the Scottish Welfare Fund into law from 1 April 2016. The Act provides certainty to stakeholders that local welfare provision will continue in Scotland following the abolition of the discretionary Social Fund by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Act places a duty on local authorities to deliver the welfare funds, in line with regulations and guidance that will be issued by Scottish Ministers. Local authorities have been delivering the fund on an interim basis, under a voluntary agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA, since April 2013.
The Fund provides a safety net for vulnerable people in an emergency when there is an immediate threat to health and safety through the provision of Crisis Grants. It enables people to live independently or continue to live independently, preventing the need for institutional care through the provision of Community Care Grants.
The Bill and accompanying documents have been published on the Scottish Parliament website.
The Welfare Reform Committee published their report on Stage 1 of the Bill on Monday 8 December 2014. The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill Stage 1 debate took place on Tuesday 16 December 2014 at the Scottish Parliament. This was followed by The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill Stage 2 debate, on Tuesday 27 January 2015. The Stage 3 consideration was completed and the Bill was passed on Tuesday 3 March 2015. The Bill as passed can be found on the Scottish Parliament website. The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent on Wednesday 08 April 2015, becoming the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015.
The regulations were laid in the Scottish Parliament on 16 December 2015. Scottish Ministers have set out in regulations aspects of the Permanent Arrangements, refined through collaboration with Cosla, local authorities and others, which were then consulted on, alongside draft statutory guidance over Summer 2015.
The following documents have been published by the Scottish Government in support of the Act:
The Act includes powers for the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to independently review SWF decisions. The ombudsman has published a briefing paper, outlining how he sees the review process working on the SPSO website.