Scottish Welfare Fund review: final report - data analysis appendix

An appendix to the main report of the review of the Scottish Welfare Fund, containing technical detail of the secondary analysis.

7. Impacts of Covid-19

Key points

  • Demand for Crisis Grants – both overall and level of repeat applications – increased significantly between 2019/20 and 2020/21. In contrast, demand for Community Care Grants fell initially during the first lockdown.
  • There was an acceleration of the existing trend towards more online applications in 2020/21.
  • Spending on the Fund increased by 31% from 2019/20 to 2020/21, although overall spending fell short of the expanded budget, which was increased by £22 million to meet additional need during the pandemic.
  • Overall decision times did not change much between 2019/20 and 2020/21.
  • Award success rates for both grant types, but particularly Crisis Grants, were higher during 2020/21 compared with 2019/20. This is likely to reflect additional funding enabling local authorities to operate at a lower priority level.

What impacts has Covid had on the SWF?

The data analysis examined the ways in which the SWF changed in response to Covid:

  • What impact has Covid had on the number and type of applications received?
  • What impact has Covid had on local authorities' capacity to administer the Fund?
  • To what extent are any Covid impacts likely to have longer-term impacts on the demand for or operation of the Fund?

The main consideration of the impact of Covid-19 is done by comparing trends in the pre-Covid data with the trends during Covid. This section pulls together the key findings from the analysis above looking at differences between pre-Covid (2019/20) and during Covid (2020/21).


Across Scotland, the average application rate in 2019/2020 was 54.9 applications per 1,000 people, while in 2020/21 this increased to an average of 65.1 applications per 1,000.

Between 2019/20 and 2020/21, Community Care Grant applications increased by 8% from 78,110 to 84,325. This compares with a 10% increase from 2018/19 (71,035).

For Crisis Grants, there was a 22% increase in applications between 2019/20 and 2020/21 (up from 222,060 to 271,295) compared with a 15% increase from 2018/19 (193,310).

As Table 9 below shows, more local authorities saw an increase in applications in 2020/21 than saw a reduction. The largest percentage increase was seen in Edinburgh (up 60% on Community Care Grants and up 108% on Crisis Grants), although this may be at least partly accounted for by the data issues highlighted earlier, for Crisis Grants.

The Orkney Islands and West Dunbartonshire also showed significant increases in applications for both Community Care Grants and Crisis Grants – an increase of 54% for Community Care Grants and 67% for Crisis Grants in the Orkney Islands and an increase of 34% in West Dunbartonshire for Community Care Grants and 54% for Crisis Grant applications.

The Shetland Islands and North Ayrshire saw the largest drop in applications, with 19% fewer Community Care Grant applications in the Shetland Islands in 2020/21 compared with 2019/20, and 56% fewer Crisis Grant applications. North Ayrshire saw a 14% reduction in Community Care Grant applications and a 21% reduction in Crisis Grant applications.

Other local authorities that saw quite large increases in Crisis Grant applications also included East Dunbartonshire (up 54%) West Dunbartonshire (up 53%) South Lanarkshire (51%) West Lothian (up 48%) and Dundee (up 45%).

Table 9: Increase or decrease in applications between 2019/20 and 2020/21
CCG Crisis Grants
Scotland1 8% 22%
Aberdeen City 9% 24%
Aberdeenshire 5% 5%
Angus 6% -4%
Argyll & Bute 19% 2%
Clackmannanshire -6% 5%
Dumfries & Galloway 13% 19%
Dundee City 5% 45%
East Ayrshire 16% 1%
East Dunbartonshire 20% 54%
East Lothian 22% 1%
East Renfrewshire 25% 10%
Edinburgh 60% 108%
Eilean Siar 17% 38%
Falkirk 5% -6%
Fife 5% 12%
Glasgow City2 -7% 23%
Highland 2% 12%
Inverclyde -4% 1%
Midlothian 18% 14%
Moray 9% -6%
North Ayrshire -14% -21%
North Lanarkshire -2% -7%
Orkney 54% 67%
Perth & Kinross 9% 34%
Renfrewshire 31% 9%
Scottish Borders 2% -6%
Shetland -19% -56%
South Ayrshire -7% 18%
South Lanarkshire 10% 51%
Stirling 27% 10%
West Dunbartonshire 34% 53%
West Lothian 1% 48%

Source: Scottish Welfare Fund Statistics 2020/21, Tables 4 & 6


In terms of spending, as seen earlier, while by March 2020, across Scotland 108% of the overall budget had been spent, in March 2021 just 83% of the expanded budget, including additional Covid-related allocation, had been spent.

Overall, in March 2021 £49,461,775 of a budget of £59,456,925 had been spent, compared with £37,621,428 spent against a budget of £34,909,249 in March 2020. That is a 31% increase in expenditure between 2019/20 and 2020/21 despite the overall underspend in 2020/21.

The analysis earlier found that even local authorities that had previously overspent significantly did not spend up to the 2020/21 budget allocation. For example, Glasgow spent 138% of the 2019/20 budget but only spent 93% of the 2020/21 budget while Fife dropped back from 128% to 85%. The local authorities that did spend the full budget for 2020/21 were Dumfries and Galloway (101%), South Lanarkshire (110%) Edinburgh (121%) West Lothian (113%) Perth and Kinross (103%) and Aberdeen (102%).

Expenditure thus increased significantly in response to the Covid pandemic but most local authorities (even those previously overspending) did not spend the expanded budget allocated to them.

Application reasons

The analysis earlier showed some potential Covid impacts of reasons for applications. Between April and June 2020 planned re-settlement after an unsettled period dropped to just 4% of reasons for a Community Care Grant application, from 10% the previous quarter, recovering back to 10% by January to March 2021. This is likely to be due to the reduction in homeless applications over this period.

From January to March 2020 onwards, the number of applications to help people stay in the community fell from 36% of reasons in January to March 2020, to 29% by March 2021. There was a significant reduction in Community Care Grant expenditure during the first Covid lockdown in April 2020 alongside a significant peak in Crisis Grant spending.

For Crisis Grants, the reasons for applying during the Covid pandemic have also been impacted. Analysis above showed that during the Covid pandemic period (from March 2020 onwards) there was a reduction in the proportion of reasons due to benefit/income spent, down from 51% in Jan-March 2020 to 46% in the same period in 2021 while 'other reasons' increased from 8% to 16% over the same period.

The reduction in the applications attributed to benefit/income being spent may relate to the Universal Credit uplift applying over this period. The increase in other reasons is likely to cover a wide range of additional financial crises caused during the pandemic, including reduced hours or income gaps.

Decision times

Between January and March 2020, 81% of Community Care Grants were decided within the target time (of making a decision within 15 working days) while for the same period in 2021, 81% of Community Care Grants were also decided within this time.

Between January and March 2020, 94% of Crisis Grants were decided within the target time (of making a decision by the next working day). In the same period for 2021, this was down slightly to 93%.

Overall, there is some evidence of negative impacts of Covid on decision times for Crisis Grants but not for Community Care Grants.

Application success rates

Award success rates for both Community Care Grants and Crisis Grant had been reducing over recent years, pre-pandemic. In 2014/15 66% of Community Care Grant applications resulted in an award compared with just 54% in 2019/20. However, this increased slightly to 57% in 2020/21.

While 72% of Crisis Grant applications resulted in an award in 2013/14 this had reduced to 63% by 2019/20 before the Covid pandemic. In 2020/21, successful applications increased to 69% of all Crisis Grant applications.

Success rates for Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants were better in 2020/21 during the pandemic than previously.

Application method

The range of application methods used has reduced over time and this changed further during the pandemic, with a 10 percentage point shift to online application during 2020/21. By 2020/21 over 80% of applications were online, with just 18% by telephone and less than 1% by post or in person. This matters because online applications have the lowest success rates.



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