I am pleased to introduce this consultation on the draft Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill and options for challenging decisions made by local authorities on applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund.
When the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decided to abolish the discretionary Social Fund, we saw this as a real opportunity to replace DWP's one-size-fits-all approach with a fair, equitable and more holistic service, that contributes to Scottish policy priorities such as tackling child poverty and reducing homelessness.
Working in partnership with COSLA, local authorities and others, we met the challenge of developing - on an interim basis - a new scheme for local delivery from April this year. Delivered by local authorities based on a national framework, the Scottish Welfare Fund aims to steer people towards a range of local services, as well as helping people in a financial crisis, or to enable them to live a more settled way of life by providing essential household goods.
Determined to do what we can to help the most vulnerable in these tough economic times, we decided to top up the funding transferred from DWP by £9.2 million, to give a total fund of £33 million and the capacity to help about 200,000 people this year. Looking ahead, we want to continue this level of support and our draft Budget maintains this level of funding for the next two years.
We also want to build on the successful launch of the interim scheme, by continuing to work in partnership with COSLA, local authorities and others to develop the scheme and put the Scottish Welfare Fund on a more secure statutory footing. This consultation is the first step in that process.
As a Government we will listen carefully to your views, as they are important to us. I encourage you to get involved, and I look forward to your response.
Margaret Burgess, Minister for Housing and Welfare
Email: Chris McGhee