Scottish Welfare Fund review: final report

A comprehensive review of the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Annex B – Local authority proforma and discussion guide


Local authority proforma

Ipsos Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, is conducting a review of the Scottish Welfare Fund. As part of this review, we would like to establish a clear picture of the operation of the Fund across Scotland.

This proforma is intended to gather information about how SWF operates in your local authority. We appreciate that some of these may require you to consult colleagues or local documentation in order to answer. For most questions, you can just type your response under the question (the boxes will expand to accommodate the level of detail you want to include).

Please return the completed form to us as soon as you are able, and no later than 15th April 2022. Your individual responses to the proforma will not be shared with anybody outside of Ipsos Scotland. Local authorities will be identified in any outputs only by a number (e.g. 'local authority 28').

Once we have received your completed proforma, a researcher from Ipsos will speak to you via Teams or telephone, to follow-up in more detail on some of the topics covered. We will review your answers before the interview, so that the interview can focus in more detail on key issues you are facing in your area.

For further information, please see the information sheet and FAQs you should already have received. If you have any other queries about this proforma or the interview, please email us at and one of the research team will get back to you.

About the SWF team in your local authority

1a. We would like to understand the structure of the team involved in delivering SWF in your local authority. For your area, please use the grid below to tell us:

a) The job titles of those immediately/directly involved in delivering SWF (i.e. processing applications/grants or setting local SWF strategy)?

b) Which departments those roles sit within?

c) How many full-time equivalent staff you have in each of those roles?

Please fill in grid

Job title / role


Number of FTE staff in role

1b. In addition to the team directly involved in the processing of SWF applications/grants, please outline (briefly) below any wider input the council provides to support the delivery of SWF, and which teams are involved in this (e.g. advertising/communicating about the Fund, supporting/encouraging applicants to apply, etc.).

Please type your response here

2. Please describe any training provided to those directly involved in processing applications. What does this training cover? How is this provided?

Please type your response here

Delivery of the SWF in your area

3. In which of the following ways are people currently able to apply to the SWF in your area?

Please highlight all those that apply

a. By phone

b. Online

c. In person, face-to-face (please say where)

d. By paper application

4. What types of support are provided by your local authority to those wishing to apply to the SWF? Please briefly describe, including who provides this support (e.g. the people processing applications, wider LA/other staff) and how it is provided (e.g. by phone, in person, online, etc.).

Please type your response here

5. What form do SWF grants take in your area?

Please highlight the types of grant provided through each of the two streams:

a) Crisis Grants – cash, bank transfers, vouchers, other (please say what)

b) Community Care Grants – cash, bank transfers, vouchers, new goods, second hand goods, other (please say what)

6. How are award decisions communicated to applicants in your area? (i.e. what format does this communication take, and what information is included alongside the decision?)

Please type your response here

7. Please could you briefly outline how your local authority approaches offering SWF 'awards in principle', and any specific policies around these?

Please type your response here

8. What, if any, follow-on support is offered after the application is assessed for

a) successful applicants and

b) unsuccessful applicants?

Please describe briefly (including who provides this support – the team that process applications, wider LA staff, or others – and whether this is typically signposting, or more active referral) and list the main places people are typically signposted or referred to in your area.

Please type your responses under each of (a) and (b) above.

9. How easy or difficult does your area find it to meet the timings set out in the statutory guidance for decisions for

a) Crisis Grants and

b) Community Care Grants?

For each, please say why your area finds this easy/difficult.

Please type your responses under each of (a) and (b) above.

10. Please briefly describe your process for dealing with First Tier SWF Review requests

Please type your response here

Demand and need for the SWF in your area

11. How have you tried to identify the likely level of need for the SWF in your local authority? What, if any, sources of data have you used to help predict need for:

a) crisis grants and

b) community care grants?

Please type your responses under each of (a) and (b) above.

12. Is there evidence of any unmet demand or need for the Fund in your local area?

If yes – are there specific groups of people in your area among whom you are aware of unmet need/demand for the Fund? Please say which groups.

Please type your response here

Impacts of Covid-19

Please note: we will be looking at data on numbers of applications and reasons for applications pre- and post-Covid, but we are also interested in your views on how the pandemic has impacted on capacity to administer the Fund.

13. What, if any, impact has the Covid pandemic had on capacity within your local authority to administer

a) crisis grants and

b) community care grants?

(please briefly explain your answers)

Promotion of the SWF in your area

14. Over the last 3 years, has your local authority undertaken any specific activities to promote awareness or take-up of the SWF?

If yes – Please describe what promotional activities have taken place over the last 3 years, and roughly when these activities happened (month / year if known)

Resourcing of the SWF

15. Which of the following best describes your view of the current level of Scottish Government funding for the SWF in your area (Please highlight one option – note we will follow up on reasons for your answer in the interview)

A lot more than is required to meet local need

A little more than is required to meet local need

About sufficient to meet local need

A little less than is required to meet local need

A lot less than is required to meet local need

16. Does your local authority provide additional top up funding for

a) Crisis Grants and

b) Community Care Grants?

If yes, how much top up funding did you provide in the last year? Which budget(s) did this comes from?

17. Do you currently have sufficient resources to enable effective administration of the fund in your area? (i.e. To cover costs of supporting, assessing and delivering grants, rather than the costs of grants themselves).

Purpose and aims of the SWF

18. Do you have any specific local strategic aims for the Fund? If yes, please provide brief detail

Consent to contact additional local authority staff

Thank you for your responses. We look forward to exploring your answers in more detail in the interview.

The next phase of the review of the SWF will include interviews with front line local authority staff in selected areas. The names of any interviewees and selected local authority areas will not be shared with anyone outside of Ipsos and will not be included in the report.

Would you be happy for us to contact you about speaking to operational staff in your local authority? This would involve asking you to help identify relevant staff and putting them in touch with us to arrange a telephone interview (Please indicate with an X in the appropriate box):

Yes / No

Thank you for completing this proforma. Please return once complete to

Discussion guide

Notes for interviewers

This topic guide provides a structure for your conversations with senior officials in local authorities. The main aim is to build a detailed picture of the operation of SWF in their area, and any specific local issues/challenges (from the local authorities perspective).

Interviews should take place after the local authority has returned the proforma. As much of the interview involves following up on and clarifying points from the proforma, you should review the proforma in advance and have the proforma in front of you during the interview.

This is a topic guide, rather than a questionnaire – your questioning will need to flex both to what you already know (from the proforma, which may mean that more or fewer follow-up questions are required), and to what the interviewee tells you (following up on points raised as appropriate). However, the headlines in bold indicate the areas you should seek to cover.

Please make notes during the interview, and type these up into the Excel analysis sheet (listening back to the interview where necessary) as soon as possible afterwards.

Introduction, confidentiality, and permission to record

  • Introduce self and Ipsos MORI
  • The Scottish Government has commissioned Ipsos MORI to undertake research to review the operation and effectiveness of the SWF, as part of its commitment to reviewing the Fund this parliamentary term.
  • The review will use multiple methods to explore the operation of the Fund, including:
    • Analysis of monitoring data, returned by LAs to the SG
    • Analysis of existing literature and evidence
    • Interviews with applicants and professionals involved in delivering the Fund or supporting applicants in a number of case study local authorities
    • And the proforma and these interviews with senior staff within each local authority who, we hope, will enable us to compile a detailed picture of how the Fund operates across Scotland.
  • Though we really hope that all local authorities will take part, it's still the case that your participation is voluntary – all questions are optional, you can just let me know if there are any questions you don't want to answer
  • We will not share these interviews, or the identities of the individuals we speak to within local authorities, with the Scottish Government. We will only refer to local authorities by numbers – e.g. 'Local authority 3' – in any outputs from the review, so please do feel free to be open in your answers, as the learning from this will hopefully help inform improvements across Scotland.
  • However, we are aware that offering concrete guarantees of confidentiality can be difficult when we're talking about professional interviewees who may be one of a small number of people in relevant roles. Given this, if you feel that anything you say is potentially identifiable, and you would rather it wasn't quoted or referred to directly, then just let me know.
  • I will check at the end if you are happy to be quoted (anonymously) in the report, and if there is anything you would prefer not be included.
  • Interview will probably last around 45 minutes.
  • Any questions before we start?
  • Request permission to record – this in case my notes are unclear and I need to go back and check anything. The recording will not be shared with anyone outside the research team and will be securely deleted after the research is complete.
  • At start of recording – I just need to confirm for the record that you are giving verbal consent that you are happy to take part in this interview, and happy for the interview to be recorded for Ipsos to listen back to.

Background and info on the SWF team in their area

  • Tell me about your role – and how it relates to the delivery of the SWF
  • Recap and clarify any points as necessary from the proforma re.
    • where SWF sits in their local authority
    • who is involved in delivering it, and
    • the training provided.

General delivery of SWF locally

  • Overall, what are the main challenges in delivering the Fund in your area? What is working well?
  • Follow up on anything that is not clear in Q3-10 of the proforma, but particularly:
    • Application options (check proforma Q3) – for any options not currently offered, probe on whether have offered this previously/why not offering at the moment. [ask whether online applications are automatically screened to remove those that are definitely not eligible]
    • Grant options (check proforma Q5) – what are the reasons why you offer grants in these different forms? Are there particular groups/circumstances in which you are more likely to offer one form than another (e.g. cash vs voucher)? Why?
    • Decisions (check proforma Q6) – if unclear, are decisions communicated in writing? What, if any, information about how to appeal a decision is included?

Views on guidance and reviews

  • What impacts on your ability to meet the timings set out in the guidance?
  • Are there any particular challenges you experience in delivering the Fund within the SG guidelines?
  • How useful are the national guidelines? Is there anything that would improve them?
  • How well do you feel the SWF review process works (from a local authority's perspective)?
    • [Probe on views on 1st and 2nd Tier reviews].
  • What do you do with data on the outcomes of 1st Tier reviews? And 2nd tier (SPSO) reviews? Is it used to shape training / policy / strategy?

Demand and need for SWF locally

  • [Explore proforma answers Q11 and Q12 as relevant]
  • Do you feel the current eligibility criteria for the SWF enables you to effectively meet needs in your local area? If not, why not?
  • Probe if necessary: Are there specific groups excluded from the SWF that you feel are in significant need of the types of support it provides?
  • Are you aware of any other groups that are eligible, but tend not to apply? If yes, why do you think this is? What might encourage them to apply?

Impacts of Covid-19 on the SWF

  • [Explore answers on proforma Q13 further if relevant]
  • With hindsight, was the SWF the best way of distributing additional support during the pandemic? What would be the best way of providing additional support in the event of a future emergency?
  • Do you feel any pandemic impacts on capacity / need are likely to continue into the future? Are they short or long-term impacts? Why?
  • What, if any, changes do you anticipate in the next 2 years – in the need and demand for the Fund in your area?

Promotion of the SWF locally

  • [Explore answers on proforma Q14 – nature / timings of promotion if unclear].
  • What are the reasons you promoted it in this way? What were you trying to achieve? (e.g. raising awareness in general? Among specific groups?)
  • What, if any, evidence were you able to gather on how effective this promotion was?
    • [probe on whether they felt reached more / new potential applicants, and any specific groups?]
  • If not promoted: What are the reasons for not undertaking any specific promotion of the Fund in your area the last 3 years?

Resourcing of the SWF

  • You said you your grant allocation is [response to proforma Q15], can you tell me more about why you said that?
  • Follow up on top-up funding if provided (q16):
    • How easy or difficult was it to find budget for topping up the SWF?
    • Why did your area decide to do this?
    • What impacts – positive or negative – did providing this top up funding have in your area?
  • If not provided – why did your area decide not to top-up SWF funding?
  • You said you do / don't have the resource to administer the fund effectively (q17). Can you tell me more about that?
    • If insufficient – what more resource would you need to enable effective delivery (e.g. how many people/in what role?)? What difference would this make (e.g. would they be able to make decisions more quickly)?
  • If known (from monitoring data) that the la underspend swf allocation – what do you think are the main reasons why your LA has not spent its full SWF allocation in recent years? Probe fully.

Views on the purpose/aims of the SWF

  • I'd like now to ask you some questions about your view on the aims and purpose of the fund. I realise this might seem a bit late in the interview, but we felt it was important to cover other issues first.
  • Can you describe your understanding of the current overall aims and purpose of the SWF?
  • What are your views on these aims? Are they appropriate or do you feel they need changing at all? Why?
    • (if feel aims should change – probe on whether SWF is best tool for meeting suggested revised aims, or whether there are other options for meeting them?)
  • At the moment, the SWF operates on a fixed budget, discretionary basis, with decisions devolved to local authorities. What are your views about this model?
    • What are its strengths/drawbacks?
    • How might it compare with a more centralised model, with decisions based on strict eligibility rules?
  • [Follow up if needed on local aims Q18 – rationale / target groups / local issues seek to address]

Ending interview and final things to check

  • Double-check proforma re. whether happy for us to contact them re. speaking to operational staff in phase 2, if their area is selected as case study
  • Mention that also want to hear from applicants in phase 2. We are assuming that local authorities won't be able to share applicant details with us directly for GDPR reasons – but one option might be for local authorities to write to applicants on our behalf and invite them to 'opt in' to the research if they are willing to be interviewed. Is this something they think would be possible, if their local authority was selected as a case study area?
  • Check whether happy to be quoted anonymously, and if we can come back to them if anything we need to check.



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