On 1 April 2013, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) abolished two elements of the Social Fund - Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans - and transferred funds previously spent on them to Scottish Ministers. In its place, the Scottish Government established the Scottish Welfare Fund. The Scottish Welfare Fund is a national grant scheme run by local authorities, based on guidance from Scottish Ministers. The guidance has been developed in partnership with COSLA, local authorities and other stakeholders.
The objectives of the scheme are to:
- provide a safety net in a disaster or emergency, when there is an immediate threat to health or safety.
- enable people to live independently or continue to live independently, preventing the need for institutional care.
There are two types of grants in the Scottish Welfare Fund – Crisis Grants, and Community Care Grants.
A Crisis Grant aims to help people on a low income who are in crisis because of a disaster or an emergency. A disaster is something like a fire or a flood. An emergency might be when money has been stolen.
A Community Care Grant aims to:
- help people establish themselves in the community following a period of care, where circumstances indicate that there is a risk of the person not being able to live independently without this help.
- help people remain in the community rather than going into care where circumstances indicate that there is a risk of the person not being able to live independently without this help.
- help people set up home in the community, as part of a planned resettlement programme, following an unsettled way of life.
- help families facing exceptional pressures, with one-off items, like a cooker or a washing machine.
- help people to care for a prisoner or young offender on release on temporary licence.
The Scottish Welfare Fund is a discretionary, budget-limited grant scheme that prioritises applications according to need. It provides grants that do not have to be repaid. It does not provide loans.
The DWP transferred the funding spent in Scotland on its Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for Living Expenses to the Scottish Government. For 2013/14 and 2014/15 this amounted to £23.8 million. The Scottish Government topped this amount up by a further £9.2 million, giving the Scottish Welfare Fund a total budget of £33 million for both these years. This level was been maintained at £33 million from 2015-16 to 2020-21 by the Scottish Government. Local authorities have been able to top this up with their own funds, together with any underspends carried forward from previous years. There is no statutory limit on the amount of money which can be spent on the Scottish Welfare Fund.
In 2020-21, the programme budget for the Scottish Welfare Fund was increased to £35.5 million. In addition, £22 million was added in response to COVID-19, with a further £23 million held in reserve, to be targeted where it is needed later in the year. It was maintained at £35.5 million for 2021-22. This publication covers applications made to the Scottish Welfare Fund until 31st March 2022. The Scottish Welfare Fund was introduced on an interim basis for the first three years, prior to setting the Fund out in law. The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015 received Royal Assent on 8 April 2015 and placed the Scottish Welfare Fund into law from 1 April 2016. The Act is supported by the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Regulations 2016, and statutory guidance.
Local Authority Delivery
Local authorities have the discretion to provide support in different ways. Not all grants will be cash payments. They may provide vouchers, a fuel card, or goods if they think that is the best way to meet the need.
Local authorities also have discretion on where in their organisation they process applications and how they link the scheme to existing services.
A local authority may provide assistance out of its SWF only to a person who is resident in the local authority area, is about to become resident in the local authority area, or a person who is homeless. Applicants should apply to the appropriate local authority. The application process will depend on the local authority's approach to wider service delivery and the infrastructure it has in place. Local authorities must make provision for applications to be taken via three delivery channels, for example, online, on the phone and face-to-face.
Details of applications, how they were processed, and the outcomes and expenditure associated with applications are stored on Local Authorities' IT systems. Four IT companies provide IT systems which underpin the provision of the Scottish Welfare Fund.
Applications are processed by decision makers within local authorities. Scottish Government produces statutory guidance to provide a framework for decision makers to promote consistency in decision making. In making decisions, local authorities need to balance the needs of the applicant against the remaining budget. Joint applications for a Crisis Grant and Community Care Grant are treated as individual. In these statistics they are also counted as two separate applications. It is for the local authority to determine whether a grant should be made as a Crisis or a Community Care Grant. If an applicant applies for one, the local authority may decide to award the other if it is more appropriate to the applicant's circumstances.
Applicants can make repeated applications for the Scottish Welfare Fund. A local authority does not need to consider an application if a person has applied for a Community Care Grant or a Crisis Grant for the same items or services within the last 28 days, where a decision has already been made and there has not been a relevant change of circumstances. Additionally, the number of Crisis Grant awards should normally be limited to three per person in any rolling 12 month period across all local authorities, although there can be exceptions.
An initial decision will be made on the application, either to make an award for all or some of the requested items, or to not make any award. In these statistics we refer to these outcomes as 'accepted' and 'rejected' respectively. Crisis Grants are typically made in cash or cash equivalent. Community Care Grants can be fulfilled in cash, cash-equivalent or in kind, for example by providing white goods or furnishings.
The target time for processing applications is 15 working days after receiving all the information allowing a decision to be made for Community Care Grants and by the end of the next working day for Crisis Grants.
If an applicant disagrees with the outcome of their application, there are two possible review stages. Firstly, a Tier 1 review will be carried out by the local authority. The target time for processing Tier 1 reviews is the end of the second working day for crisis reviews, and 15 working days for Community Care Grant reviews. At this point the original decision will either be 'revised' or 'not revised'.
Following this, an independent Tier 2 review may be carried out by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). Tier 2 reviews have been carried out by the SPSO since 1 April 2016 (previously this was done by Local Authorities). Information on tier 2 reviews carried out by SPSO can be found in the SPSO's Annual Reports and Annual Statistics 2020-21.
Family Reunion Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants for 18-21 year olds
Family Reunion Crisis Grants, and Community Care Grants for 18-21 year olds affected by the change to the entitlement for housing costs within Universal Credit, are processed by local authorities using the same IT systems as other Scottish Welfare Fund awards. We therefore receive data for these Community Care Grant applications in monthly and quarterly data returns. However, these specific types of grants are not funded through the main Scottish Government allocation for awards. Local authorities are reimbursed separately for these awards. Local authorities send separate quarterly returns detailing the application reference numbers of applications for Family Reunion Crisis Grants, and 18-21 year olds affected by the change to the entitlement for housing costs. We have then excluded these applications from the analysis when producing this publication and accompanying publication tables.
Self-Isolation Support Grants
Self-Isolation Support Grants are made either as Crisis Grants or as discretionary grants for individuals with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). These grants are not funded through the main Scottish Government allocation for awards, so local authorities provide Scottish Government with monthly summary figures for applications received and the number and value of awards made. Self-Isolation Support Grants are processed by some local authorities using separate administrative systems, however other local authorities use the same IT system as their Scottish Welfare Fund awards. For those who use the same IT system, we also receive monthly returns detailing the application reference numbers and the date of the application. We use this information to flag the Self-Isolation Support Grant applications and exclude them from the analysis when producing this publication and accompanying publication tables.
Local authority level application figures should not be compared with each other due to several factors that are known to influence the number applications:
i) in the early stages of the scheme, and after expanding eligibility criteria, it is expected there are larger numbers of speculative applications that are not eligible.
ii) local authorities are currently taking different approaches to receiving/processing applications. In local authorities where online applications are used a higher number of non-eligible applications may be included in the data. As a result, the award rate in these councils may be lower than in those where applications are only possible via phone, email or outbound calling.
iii) figures may include applications that have been received but are still being processed.
iv) the extent and impacts of the pandemic have varied widely across and within local authorities.
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