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.

6 Local delivery

6.1 As local delivery has been seen by the scheme's designers as a major opportunity to improve on the weaknesses of the predecessor scheme, the study has probed deeply into this aspect of the scheme's operation. This chapter begins with a presentation of findings regarding applicants' experiences of being sign-posted by SWF staff to alternative sources of support. The sections that follow present third sector perspectives on how the joined up approach works in practice.

Applicant experiences of sign-posting

6.2 Less than a third of Community Care Grant applicants were signposted to support organisations when the decision was communicated to them. Only one in seven Crisis Grant applicants was signposted at this stage.

6.3 While in most cases the signposting was genuinely tailored to the applicant's needs, in some cases it was limited to a standard mention of Citizens Advice. Similarly, even in areas where charitable organisations are well present, usually only one alternative source of support was mentioned.

6.4 It appeared from applicants' accounts that signposting is more effective when it is done in the decision letter: names, telephone numbers, addresses of support organisations are then clearly and readily available to the applicant. When signposting is done over the phone, those contact details may be easily forgotten.

Decision letters should signpost applicants to other sources of support in the locality.

6.5 However, in crisis situations signposting should be also done when the decision is communicated over the phone as it gives the applicant a chance to seek additional support straight away.

Crisis Grant applicants should be signposted to other sources of support not only in decision letters but also when the decision is first communicated by phone.

6.6 Interviews with applicants indicated that applicants who received full awards were signposted less frequently than others. However, as the household may still be in need, the study team suggest that signposting is done even if the award is in full. It is also important that signposting is done even if the applicant is supported by another organisation. Staff cannot assume that applicants are fully supported by the organisations they are in touch with, as this might not be the case.

Signposting should be done even if a full grant is awarded.

Joined-up approach: third sector perspectives

6.7 Third sector respondents' comments covered various kinds of joint working: joint working within the local authority; joint working between the SWF team and third sector advocates; partnerships between the local authority and third sector organisations as providers of goods and services; and joint working between the SWF team and other public agencies (e.g. DWP, NHS).

Joint working within the local authority

6.8 As mentioned in the chapter on 'Decisions', front-line third sector respondents did not think that in their localities there was enough joined up working between the SWF team and the Social Work team. This meant that the expertise of social workers in understanding vulnerabilities was not used.

6.8.1 An example showing a lack of communication between the SWF and Social Work included the case where the SWF team were routinely pointing people to Section 12 payments while the local Social Work team made such payments only exceptionally.

6.9 A number of front-line and policy respondents felt that various parts of their local authorities were not aware of the SWF and therefore were not informing potential applicants about the scheme. Examples given included Community Care teams, those responsible for hospital discharge, Housing Officers and social workers.

6.9.1 It was felt that local authority employees should be pro-actively telling people about the SWF. For example, when a Community Care assessment is being done and the worker notices that the cooker is old, he or she should be telling the person about the Community Care Grant.

In each local authority the SWF management should liaise with the Social Work management to identify which local authority employees should be aware of the SWF and be pro-actively telling potential clients about the Fund. An appropriate awareness-raising action should be undertaken.

Joint working between the local authority and the third sector

6.10 Some third sector respondents believed that the SWF relies heavily on third sector support organisations and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) mediating between the SWF team and the client: "the process of accessing money is multi-layered" (policy manager).

6.11 While in many cases support organisations made an application on behalf of the client, in other cases the client received advice but applied on his or her own. It has been emphasised that the application process should allow for highlighting the fact that the applicant is being supported and for including the advocate's contact details. One front-line respondent stated that in his opinion the local SWF team were "nine out of ten times not aware that the client is supported".

6.12 Some front-line respondents praised local delivery as advocates were able to build a relationship with a SWF officer in the local office and discuss individual cases in more detail. Other benefits included it being easier to follow up the application with a locally-based team than with the DWP; having a much quicker access to the decision-maker than under the Social Fund; and the local SWF team understanding the advocate's accent better.

6.13 A positive example of joint working included SWF team coming with a visit to give support workers training.

6.14 One policy manager felt there may be an inclination to 'over-ownership' of the SWF at the local authority level, possibly due to the cultural aversion to overspending. That respondent felt that more effective local delivery could be achieved through agreeing priorities and needs, since other third sector organisations might often have far better intelligence about client needs and closer relationships to clients. This might help in particular in the delivery of faster, more effective crisis responses.

Showcasing emerging examples of how third sector partners and clients have been/might be involved in shaping SWF delivery might offer some innovative implementation models.

6.15 Third sector respondents expressed mixed opinions about whether SWF officers signpost applicants to other sources of support (both third sector and statutory). Some were happy with the level of signposting while others complained that in their localities SWF officers seemed to have limited knowledge of the support landscape. A few respondents also complained that in their localities SWF officers signposted only to food banks.

Joint working between the local authority and other public agencies

6.16 Some front-line and policy respondents felt that there was not enough joined-up working between their local SWF teams and other public agencies, resulting in the latter being unaware of the scheme. Examples included Job Centres and GPs not being aware of the SWF.

Unintended consequences of local delivery

6.17 One policy officer was concerned that local delivery may work against the applicant if they are 'known' to the local authority. This might be if they owe rent or Council Tax arrears or if they have been in touch with Social Work in the past due to child protection issues/concern. These people may not want to approach the local authority if they are struggling.

6.18 There may also be examples of disabled people wanting to stay 'beneath the radar', as a re-assessment of needs/care packages might be triggered through contact with the local authority. This re-assessment can sometimes lead to care package being reduced.


6.19 The study has found that signposting of applicants was patchy. With regards to a joined up approach to supporting people in need, third sector respondents held a view that in their localities there was not enough joined up working between the SWF teams and other departments of the local authority or other public agencies. Third sector respondents expressed more positive views about the level of joint working between the SWF and non-statutory support organisations. In particular, it has been highlighted that the SWF allows for building a relationship between third sector advocates and SWF teams. However, respondents from non-statutory support organisations also highlighted that in some cases SWF staff are not aware that the applicant is supported by a third sector advocate.


Email: Franca MacLeod

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