Publication - Research and analysis

Consultation on regulations and statutory guidance under the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015: Analysis of Responses

Published: 17 Dec 2015
ISBN:
9781785448843

Report on responses to the consultation on regulations and statutory guidance under the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015.

Consultation on regulations and statutory guidance under the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015: Analysis of Responses
5 PRIORITISATION OF FAMILIES FACING EXCEPTIONAL PRESSURE (Q6)

5 PRIORITISATION OF FAMILIES FACING EXCEPTIONAL PRESSURE (Q6)

5.1 CCGs are intended to help people on benefits who: (a) may have to go into care unless they get some support to stay at home or (b) are leaving care and need help to set-up their own home. CCGs may also be given to families under exceptional pressure for one-off items such as cookers or washing machines. The permanent SWF will continue to make payments (via CCGs) to families under exceptional pressure in the same way as the interim SWF.

5.2 The consultation paper noted that, when the 2015 Act was going through Parliament, there was much discussion about families under exceptional pressure. In response to this, a requirement was included in the draft regulations (Section 9) that local authorities should give priority to families facing exceptional pressure when making decisions on CG applications:

Crisis grants – families under exceptional pressure

9. In deciding whether to provide a crisis grant to an individual, a local authority is to have particular regard to whether the individual, or another individual in the same household, is facing exceptional pressure.

5.3 The consultation asked respondents if they agreed with this prioritisation.

Question 6: Do you agree that families facing exceptional pressure should be given priority in decisions on CG applications as well as CCGs? (Yes / No)

Please explain your answer.

5.4 Table 5.1 below shows that respondents were divided in their views on this question, with 49% replying ‘yes’ and 51% replying ‘no’. Housing organisations were more likely to agree, whereas local authorities were more likely to disagree. In addition, while a majority of third sector organisations agreed, a substantial proportion were not in favour of this proposal. The two respondents to the Easy Read consultation both expressed mixed views on this proposal; one of these thought that this prioritisation should only occur if there was a disabled child in the family.

Table 5.1: Do you agree that families facing exceptional pressure should be given priority in decisions on CG applications as well as CCGs?

Yes

No

Total

Local government

5

28%

13

72%

18

100%

Third sector / equality organisations

9

60%

6

40%

15

100%

Housing organisations

6

86%

1

14%

7

100%

Other organisational respondents

2

50%

2

50%

4

100%

Individuals

3

43%

4

57%

7

100%

Total

25

49%

26

51%

51

100%

5.5 Altogether, 52 respondents (45 organisations and 7 individuals) made comments at Question 6.

Arguments in support of the prioritisation of families facing exceptional pressure

5.6 Respondents gave four reasons for supporting the prioritisation of families facing exceptional pressure in relation to CG applications.

5.7 First, they argued that households where there are dependent children should be given priority. Moreover, it was pointed out that forthcoming changes to the benefits system (changes in eligibility for tax credits and universal credit) were likely to have a disproportionately adverse impact on families with children.

5.8 Second, respondents thought that prioritising this group for welfare funding could help to mitigate risks to the health and wellbeing of children and parents – and therefore would fulfil an important prevention / early intervention purpose. The following quote illustrates these arguments:

“Those households with dependent children should be given priority, thus embracing the will of the Scottish Government's ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’; local outcomes of Local Authorities and the early intervention and prevention approach to delivering public services as recommended by the Christie Commission.” (Local authority)

5.9 Third, respondents thought that CGs and CCGs should be accessible to the most vulnerable and those in exceptional need. This group considered that families facing exceptional pressures were likely to fall into the category of ‘most vulnerable’.

5.10 Finally, some respondents suggested that, if families were prioritised in relation to CCGs, then they saw no reason why they should not also be prioritised for CGs.

Caveats

5.11 However, among those who generally supported the prioritisation of families, some also voiced caveats. The most common was in relation to definitional issues: respondents thought that it would be important to clearly define what is meant by ‘exceptional pressure’ and ‘family’. (A definition of ‘families facing exceptional pressure’ had not been given in the consultation.) For example, in relation to the latter, there was a question about whether an adult child with learning or other disabilities living at home with elderly relatives would be considered to be a ‘family’. In relation to the former, the point was made that the definition of ‘exceptional pressure’ could vary from one family to another, depending on the circumstances. It was suggested that the statutory guidance should provide examples ‘without being prescriptive or limiting’.

5.12 Some respondents in this group also voiced concerns about whether the prioritisation of families could have a potentially negative impact on single people including, for example, a disabled person living on their own. One of the Easy Read respondents also raised this concern.

Arguments opposed to the prioritisation of families facing exceptional pressure

5.13 Respondents opposed to the prioritisation of families facing exceptional pressure gave three main reasons for their view. By far, the main reason was that such a prioritisation would be discriminatory and unfair. This group argued that all applications for CGs should be assessed on their own merits, and expressed concern that by prioritising one vulnerable group, other vulnerable groups would be disadvantaged. (Examples included the elderly, people with mental health problems, people fleeing domestic violence, young adults estranged from their families.) Respondents emphasised that decisions to award grants should be based on need and not on family structure. The point was also made that, in certain circumstances, a single adult could be considered to be more vulnerable than a family, and moreover, that not all people can have a family (because of sexual orientation or disability).

5.14 The second argument put forward by this group is that there is no need to formalise the prioritisation of families, since applications from individuals with dependent children are already ‘fast-tracked’. Moreover, the point was made that the list of vulnerabilities included in the draft statutory guidance was framed in such a way that, for all practical purposes, households with children would be likely to secure both CG and CCG awards without the need for further regulation. Respondents commented that families in crisis often have access to multiple sources of support, whereas single people often have no other support.

5.15 The following quote illustrates these arguments:

“It is counterproductive to assess individuals’ requests for support on the basis of a hierarchy of perceived vulnerability. It is important that all applications are assessed on the basis of need. By stating that priority should be given to one group, individual or family over another could be wrongly interpreted as defining the deserving and undeserving recipients of awards.” (Third sector organisation)

5.16 Finally, this group of respondents highlighted the practical difficulty of giving priority to one vulnerable group over another in the awarding of grants. The point was made that CGs are intended to meet immediate, short-term needs arising out of an exceptional event or circumstance. To process applications quickly, decision makers must work on a first-come, first-served basis, and all applications are treated as coming from people who are ‘in crisis’. If families were to be prioritised, it would cause delays in processing other applications. The important preventative function of the SWF was again highlighted.


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Email: Will Tyler