Review of the Scottish Welfare Fund Interim Scheme

The review explores how well the interim arrangements of the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) have worked, from the perspectives of applicants to the SWF and the third sector organisations supporting them. It also provides recommendations for the remainder of the interim period and for the permanent arrangements.

9 Impact of decision

9.1 This chapter is structured by the level of received award: starting from the impact on the applicant of a full award being received, then a partial award and finally the impact of a rejected application. Within each section applicant experiences and perspectives of third sector organisations are included.

9.2 As a key focus of the research was the coping strategies and experiences of applicants whose applications were rejected or partially rejected, considerable space in this chapter has been given to these themes. This is not intended to imply that applications to the SWF tend to be rejected or that successful applicants benefit little from the awards. In fact, monitoring data for the first six months of the Fund's operation shows that 61% of Community Care Grant applications and 68% of Crisis Grant applications were accepted[7].

9.3 Equally, it would not be appropriate to see the refusal of SWF award as a 'cause' of hardship. Instead, such refusal could be seen as a missed opportunity at preventing or alleviating hardship. It also needs to be borne in mind that Crisis Grants are intended to remedy short-term problems only and as such cannot address long-term poverty or hardship.

Impact of full award

9.4 Both Crisis Grant and Community Care Grant applicants spoke of a very positive impact of receiving a full award:

Immeasurable. I don't think I could put it into words. (...) It's made the quality of life for me and two of my children, without it ... The standard of living before was horrendously sad and desperate. Now there's light at the end of the tunnel and there's a future. (...) I can't tell you the stress and I can't tell you how happy it made me. (Community Care Grant)

Very useful. I could get my clothes off the floor. (Community Care Grant)

Well it meant we could actually eat. (Crisis Grant)

It will help a big bit because I've got no gas at the moment. (Crisis Grant applicant who has just received a grant)

9.5 Third sector representatives of a Registered Social Landlord felt that full Community Care Grant awards boosted tenancy sustainment.

Impact of partial award

9.6 Community Care Grant applicants appreciated the positive impact of the award they received:

So it helped a great deal, actually, because we had no money. (Community Care Grant)

I was pretty satisfied with it. I got the majority of the stuff that I needed for my house. I actually felt comfortable in the house once it was all done. (Community Care Grant)

It was the first time I'd slept in a proper bed for ages, to be honest. It was strange. I woke up in the morning thinking I was going to fall off the couch. (Community Care Grant, previously homeless)

So, very, very, helpful, useful; it was a Godsend to be honest because I did not have the money to go out and buy a cooker and a fridge and washing machine and you need these things. (Community Care Grant)

9.7 Some applicants said that the award had a positive impact not only on their material situation but also on their mental well-being:

It gives you just a wee bit of hope that there is something in the future for you. It gives you something just to build on. (Community Care Grant)

9.8 On the other hand, some Community Care Grant applicants spoke of negative consequences of not receiving a full award:

I'm still struggling without a freezer. (Community Care Grant)

9.9 The theme of being pushed into debt has been relatively common in Community Care Grant applicants' accounts:

I got dramatically less, actually. I had to borrow from my mum. I had to go back and pretty much beg my mother. (Community Care Grant)

9.10 Strategies employed to address the remaining need included saving money little by little:

I just left money by as the weeks went by and just went out and got myself a bed. (Community Care Grant)

9.11 The picture emerging from interviews with Crisis Grant applicants suggests that partial grants allow beneficiaries to get by for short periods of time, with evidence of some hardship experienced along the way:

It wasn't really much to live on. (…) They gave me £40 for shopping to last me 10 days. (…) You are on the bare minimum stuff that tastes rotten. (Crisis Grant)

9.12 Some Crisis Grant applicants felt that the maximum award for living expenses (30% of Income Support personal allowance rate in the case of non-householders, as per point 8.4 of the Guidance) is not enough to buy food and pay for energy:

You could do with getting more. They ask you how much, roughly, you would spend a day. Roughly I would spend about £10 on food a day, which is my breakfast, my lunch and something for my supper. They're like; well we can only offer you £6 a day. To me, that's hard. (...) It's hard to try and just spend £6 a day. Your gas and electric, you've got to put in £5 anyway to get the equivalent. You can't go less than £5. (Crisis Grant)

The Scottish Government should consider whether under the permanent arrangements SWF decision-makers should have discretion over the maximum award for living expenses, to take account of the fact that the current maximum rate may result in hardship for Crisis Grant applicants who are exceptionally vulnerable.

9.13 Third sector respondents were divided in their assessment of partial awards. Some thought that even small awards were helpful; others felt that partial awards did not prevent hardship and were of small benefit to clients. One front-line respondent spoke of a case where the award was too low to make any difference to the client's situation.

9.14 Organisations supporting women fleeing domestic abuse highlighted the potentially negative consequences of partial awards. Without sufficient material resources the victim may go back to the perpetrator. They also spoke of a case where a client had hardly any cooking equipment for which reason social workers warned the client that her children may be taken into care.

Impact of no award - third sector perspectives

9.15 Third sector front-line and policy respondents unanimously felt that the consequences of failed applications were very serious: "Often the impact is huge", "Absolute poverty", "Needs are not met".

9.16 With regards to two specific clients groups, it has been said that people with poor mental health experienced a further deterioration in mental health. Front-line respondents representing an organisation supporting ex-offenders said that small or refused awards resulted in a client feeling demotivated, frustrating plans for a successful re-settlement.

9.17 Between them, third sector respondents mentioned a number of sources where unsuccessful applicants sought help. The role of foodbanks has been emphasised by several respondents: "Foodbanks have become part of the infrastructure for dealing with people in crisis" (policy manager).

9.18 Other sources of support frequently mentioned by respondents included: relying on friends; help from churches, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, etc; and clothes banks.

9.19 Section 12 has been mentioned by a few respondents but all of them stressed that it was 'very difficult to get'. One respondent mentioned the Hardship Fund from the DWP, with a note that this was not always accessible for sanctioned clients.

9.20 Some front-line respondents stated that their clients resorted to Payday loan providers, 'loan sharks' and the Cash Generator (pawnbrokers).

9.21 Two organisations highlighted the fact that there is less charitable support in remote and/or rural areas.

Impact of no award - applicant perspectives

9.22 Community Care Grant applicants who received a negative decision spoke of experiencing hardship. Some respondents pointed at the fact that the negative decision impacted on their relationships:

My house isn't suitable for me to get access for my daughter, for her to come down and stay here. (Community Care Grant)

9.23 Some accounts highlighted that negative consequences of not getting the grant were borne by children:

My daughter, the reason why I asked for a bed was that she is sleeping in a cot. She's 5 now so the cot is too small for her, she needs a proper single bed. (Community Care Grant)

9.24 Negative impacts on physical and mental health were also mentioned:

Basically, my bed is still broken so I'm sleeping on the floor at the moment. My back's not happy with it. (Community Care Grant)

And I was really in need for that at that time. I really needed that money at that time. To tell you the truth it put me mentally depressed. Because I was wondering where the money was coming from. (Community Care Grant)

9.25 Going into debt has been mentioned as one of the consequences of not receiving the grant:

I had to go into debt and all that. It causes me hardship because I'm paying the bedroom tax here as well. (Community Care Grant)

9.26 The two main findings from interviews with Community Care Grant applicants are that people seek support from friends and family in the first instance; and that few use support from charitable organisations (either because they are not present in the locality or because applicants are not aware of them):

I had to ask my Dad to give me a bit of spare cash to help me. He had £50 or so left and I managed to get a single bed with it. (Community Care Grant)

No, there's no charities or that round about here. They're all a fair distance away. (Community Care Grant)

9.27 Not all Community Care Grant applicants were able to draw on support from friends and family:

I've not really got many family members in [name of local authority]. The family members that I see I don't get on with. (Community Care Grant)

9.28 While some respondents managed to get help from family and friends, it did not necessarily fully meet the need:

My son and my brother kind of helped me with my one bedroom and the living room and the bathroom bits. I've still got the hall and my one bedroom to do. (...) I'm still in need, yes. (Community Care Grant)

9.29 Crisis Grant respondents whose applications have been rejected spoke of hardship which in some cases included going without food:

I got about three days' worth of food from a food bank in that whole four weeks [of JSA sanction]. I'm diabetic Type 1 so you can't take insulin unless you're eating something. So that was a hard time. (Crisis Grant, sanctioned JSA claimant)

I had… honestly, I had to put all my money into electric so I had no food for two days. (Crisis Grant)

9.30 Similarly to Community Care Grant applicants, seeking help from family and friends was the most common strategy for survival employed by Crisis Grant respondents.

My family managed to give me a wee hand anyway. (Crisis Grant)

9.31 However, some accounts highlighted the fact that family and friends may not have enough resources to be able to help:

I had asked the family and they couldn't help. (Crisis Grant)

9.32 Some respondents spoke of not being able to draw on support from family and friends:

My mum lives out of town and I'm estranged from my dad so… (Crisis Grant)

9.33 Using foodbanks was the second most common strategy among refused Crisis Grant applicants. However, it has been emphasised that some foodbanks only provide up to three consecutive food parcels (equivalent of nine days of food). One Crisis Grant applicant received a food parcel but could not afford to pay her energy bills and therefore found herself unable to cook the food.

9.34 As in the case of Community Care Grant applicants, there was little evidence of Crisis Grant applicants drawing on other sources of support, either because the charitable sector is not present in the locality or because applicants were not aware of it. (There seems to be a link here to the finding that signposting to support organisations was typically patchy).

I was told that there is a charitable support however no one told me the location of it. (...) there is one foodbank here, I'm pretty sure. However it was just hard finding it and in the end I still haven't found it. (Crisis Grant)

9.35 Resorting to crime was mentioned by one Crisis Grant applicant and alluded to by two others:

I had no food for two days. This is quite bad to say but I actually shoplifted from a garage. Not proud of it but I had to. (Crisis Grant)

9.36 Few Community Care Grant and Crisis Grant applicants were aware of the possibility of seeking help from other state sources such as the DWP Hardship Fund or Budgeting Loans:

I wasn't aware of it. (Crisis Grant)

I thought it all came out of the same pot. (Community Care Grant)

9.37 One applicant who was in receipt of a DWP Hardship Fund payment at the time of the interview suggested that it was not substantial enough to stop him having to make a choice between eating and heating.

9.38 Comments from a few applicants suggested that those who come into contact with the welfare system for the first time tend to lack the knowledge of the system:

I don't know about any of these things [Budgeting Loans, Hardship Fund payments] because I've never ever claimed before. I've worked since I was 14 and nobody has ever told me how to do any of these things. So I've honestly no idea. (Crisis Grant)

Long vs short-term impact

9.39 Virtually all successful Community Care Grant applicants thought the impact of the award to be long-term. Crisis Grant applicants thought the impact of the award was short-term but crucial as the award allowed them to get through the most difficult period.


9.40 The study found that the impact on applicants who received a full award was very positive. A more mixed picture emerged from interviews with those who received a partial award: while many appreciated the help it offered, for some the lack of full award meant that (unless they managed to secure sufficient support from family and friends) they continued to be in need, with some becoming indebted and others experiencing hardship.

9.41 The study has found that some of those who were unsuccessful experienced hardship including hunger.

9.42 The first-choice coping strategy was asking family and friends for help. However, this option was not available to some applicants. With the exception of unsuccessful Crisis Grant applicants who often used foodbanks, few unsuccessful applicants sought help from charitable organisations, either because they were not present in the locality or because applicants were not aware of them.


Email: Franca MacLeod

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