Consultation on draft Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill and options for challenging decisions made by local authorities on applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund

This consultation is the first step in a legal process to underpin the Scottish Welfare Fund in legislation. It also seeks views on options for independent scrutiny of decisions made by local authorities on applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund.


The SWF was introduced following the abolition by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of elements of its discretionary Social Fund, namely crisis loans for living expenses and community care grants. Community care grants were payments intended to help vulnerable people live as independent a life as possible in the community. Crisis loans for living expenses were generally paid to individuals to cover immediate short-term needs that arose because of a disaster or emergency.

The intention of the UK Government was for new assistance to be delivered in England using existing powers in the Local Government Act 2000 and for the Scottish and Welsh Governments to decide on what new assistance should be provided in Scotland and Wales respectively. Funding transferred from DWP to LAs in England to enable them to establish a new system of local welfare assistance and to the Welsh and Scottish Governments to enable them to establish newly created systems. It was therefore up to the Scottish Government to make decisions as to the type of any new assistance to be provided in Scotland, within the bounds of the additional powers to deliver this form of social security, created by the Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Schedule 5) (No. 2) Order 2013.

Following a consultation[1], Scottish Ministers decided to set up the SWF, to be delivered by Scottish LAs, based on national ministerial guidance. Using the previous DWP Social Fund as a starting point and targeted on those on low income, there are two types of grants under the SWF: crisis grants, and community care grants. A crisis grant aims to help people, typically on benefits, who are in crisis because of a disaster or an emergency. A disaster is something like a fire or a flood. An emergency might be needing to travel to visit a sick child or when money has been stolen.

A community care grant aims to help people, typically on benefits, who may have to go into care unless they get some support to stay at home. Or, if they are leaving any form of care and need help to set-up their own home. For example, they may be leaving hospital, prison or a residential care home. A community care grant can also help families facing exceptional pressures, with one-off items, like a cooker or a washing machine.

The SWF is a discretionary budget-limited scheme that prioritises applications according to need. It provides grants that do not have to be repaid. It does not provide loans. LAs have the discretion to provide support in different ways. Not all grants will be cash payments. They may provide vouchers, a fuel card, or furniture if they think that the best way to meet the need.

Further information about the SWF, including the ministerial guidance, can be found at:


Email: Chris McGhee

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