Scottish Welfare Fund: statutory guidance May 2019
The Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) aims to provide a safety net to people on low incomes through Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants.
8. Community Care Grants
8.1 Community Care Grants help people live independently, or continue to live independently, preventing the need for institutional care.
8.2 For the purpose of Cocmmunity Care Grants, examples of institutional care settings applicants may be coming from, or at risk of going to, include:
- hospital or other medical establishment
- care home
- hostel or shelter, including women’s aid
- staff intensive sheltered housing
- residential or other forms of local authority care
- prison or detention centre
- supported accommodation – including care leavers in supported accommodation
8.3 The above list is not exhaustive. In considering an application, the threat of care need not be immediate. It may be a logical consequence of a worsening of a condition or that the applicant would not be able to maintain a settled home in the community without the items that they are applying for.
8.4 Community Care Grants should be made in a timely manner to enable applicants to receive the goods they need to allow them to move into new accommodation. Applications received must be processed when confirmation of the new tenancy is obtained to allow the goods to be ordered and, thereafter, delivered on receipt of keys or as soon as practicably possible. The intention is that the tenancy should be secured before the Community Care Grant is awarded, to avoid failed delivery but Local Authorities may choose to order items before the tenancy is signed if they consider the risk of this to be low. Where an applicant has requested a cooker and/or a bed, consideration should also be given to whether there is a need for pots and pans and/or bedding in order for the applicant to use any item awarded.
8.5 There are five circumstances in which a Community Care Grant may be awarded.
(1) To enable qualifying individuals who are leaving care or imprisonment to establish or maintain a settled home in the community, where without a grant there is a risk that the individual will not be able to do so
8.6 Applicants may be awarded a Community Care Grant if they are leaving accommodation in which they received significant and substantial care, supervision or protection and are establishing themselves in the local community. They should normally have been receiving care in a prison, hospital, local authority or other setting for a period of three months or more, or have a pattern of frequent or regular admission to institutional or residential care clearly linked to the nature of the applicant’s disability or circumstances. The Welfare Fund (Scotland) Regulations specify that the length of time the applicant has received care should be a period of three months or more, any part of which falls within the period of nine months preceding the date of application or the applicant should have been in a care institution for two or more separate periods within the nine months preceding the date of application
8.7 If an applicant is looking after someone and the local authority agrees that a contribution to their expenses will help establish the person they care for in the community, then they may also be awarded a Community Care Grant. For example, if they have to move home to look after someone in these circumstances, then they may be given help with things like removal expenses, travel costs or connection charges for gas and electricity. The applicant needs to be eligible for a grant, but the person they are caring for need not.
8.8 Applicants should be permitted to apply for a Community Care Grant if they are still in the accommodation providing care, if they expect to be on a low income when they leave. They should be permitted to apply up to eight weeks before they are discharged, but the local authority may choose to defer payment of any grant awarded to help set up home until nearer the time of leaving care or to make a decision in principle (see paragraph 8.38), payable if certain conditions are met.
(2) To enable qualifying individuals to maintain a settled home in the community, where without a grant there is a risk of the individual needing to go into a care institution
8.9 Applicants may be awarded a Community Care Grant if this will help them to stay in the community, rather than enter accommodation to receive care. One of the factors the local authority will wish to consider is how immediate the likelihood is of going in to such accommodation, and whether the type of item or service requested would prevent this happening. It is difficult to set boundaries around what constitutes an immediate risk and what should be taken into account, as each application is different and should be considered on its own merit based on the facts provided.
8.10 The following are examples of when a Community Care Grant may be awarded:
- helping with expenses or provision of goods, such as cookers and fridges, to avoid going into care or hospital
- helping with expenses for minor alterations to a home to maintain living conditions, except where the property is owned by a local authority or Social Landlord who maintains property on the tenant’s behalf (see exclusions at Annex A)
- enabling an applicant to move to care for someone to enable them to stay in their home, including travel expenses
- enabling the applicant to move to more suitable accommodation, to prevent admission to care
- enabling someone to move nearer to someone who can offer them support, to prevent admission to care
8.11 Applicants may be awarded a Community Care Grant if they are caring for someone and the local authority agrees that a payment to the carer will help the person they care for to remain in the community rather than entering accommodation to receive care.
8.12 An applicant might need to move to be near, or to live with, the person who requires additional support and may be awarded removal expenses or travel costs. To be awarded a grant, an applicant needs to be eligible for a grant, but the person they are caring for need not.
(3) To enable qualifying individuals to establish or maintain a settled home in the community after being homeless, or otherwise living an unsettled way of life
8.13 If an applicant is about to move in to their own accommodation following a period of homelessness, or a period where they have not had a settled address, they may be awarded a Community Care Grant. The applicant does not need to be statutorily regarded as homeless. There are two conditions for receipt of the grant:
- the applicant must be vulnerable - this is determined by whether or not they have one or more of the vulnerabilities at Annex C, in addition to homelessness which is considered at stage 3 of the decision making process
- the applicant should be receiving, have just received, or be about to receive support to sustain their tenancy (formerly referred to as a re-settlement programme) - this could include support such as budgeting, money management, shopping and cooking or assisting the applicant in developing the skills needed to sustain the tenancy
8.14 The grant may be given to help the applicant set up home in his or her own accommodation, for example, but not exclusively, if they:
- have been living in a hostel but have now secured a tenancy and support to sustain the tenancy
- have a history of homelessness and have secured a tenancy along with a place on a programme of support to help them develop the skills to sustain the tenancy
- are a young person leaving residential supported accommodation who is being supported to establish an independent tenancy
- have been in temporary accommodation and are now moving to settled accommodation, and have support in place to help them sustain their tenancy
(4) To enable qualifying individuals to maintain a settled home in the community in a situation where that individual, or another individual in the same household, is facing exceptional pressure
8.15 Applicants may be given a grant to meet needs that arise out of exceptional pressure on the applicant or a member of their family. Exceptional pressure is a greater pressure than you would be under just from living on a low income which is impacting negatively on their ability to live in a settled home. All families and individuals, especially those on low income, face pressure at various times, so that in itself is not a reason to award a Community Care Grant. A Community Care Grant, however, may be awarded to ease exceptional pressures on a family. What could be considered as exceptional pressure to one person may be different to another depending on their personal level of resilience. Decision makers should consider the degree of this pressure in terms of its effect on the individual family as well as the type of pressure, or how common it is.
8.16 Some examples (this is not an exhaustive list) of what might be judged to be exceptional pressure are:
- to meet the needs of a child where there is a risk to their health or wellbeing, for example, as a result of an incident connected with chronic illness, accident or disability
- there has been a breakdown of relationships, perhaps including domestic abuse that has resulted in a move.
- a family which has previously lived in ‘temporary accommodation’ who has set up a new tenancy.
- there is a serious problem with accommodation, which is resulting in the need for minor repairs, replacement furniture or a move
(5) To assist a person to care for a qualifying individual who has been released from prison or a young offenders’ institution on temporary release
8.17 A Community Care Grant can be awarded to assist a person to care for a qualifying individual who has been released from prison or a young offenders’ institution on temporary release. The qualifying individual in this circumstance must have been in prison, or a care institution, for (a) a period of at least three months any part of which falls within the nine months preceding the date of application or (b) two or more separate periods within that nine month period.
8.18 Temporary release is when a person in prison is given unescorted access to the community. This can be for up to seven nights, excluding travelling time, and may be repeated in the period prior to release to help prepare the individual for their return to the community.
8.19 The applicant will be the person the individual on temporary release is staying with, for example their family. The applicant needs to meet the eligibility criteria, but the person on temporary release does not, so there is no need to establish the person on temporary release’s financial circumstances. The grant is awarded to pay for living expenses while the person is on temporary release, for example, food or additional fuel consumption. Awards for living expenses should be paid at single person non-householder rate.
8.20 The Regulations require that applicants must be aged 16 or over and be on a low income.
8.21 The applicant must be resident in the local authority area, or about to become resident or homeless.
8.22 The key test for a Community Care Grant is that the application is for someone setting up or maintaining an established home in the community. There must be some risk that this may not be possible without a grant. That risk does not need to be immediate for an applicant to qualify, and decision makers should use their discretion in deciding what constitutes a ‘risk’ or ‘exceptional pressure’.
Income and Capital
8.23 The Regulations require local authorities to take account of this guidance when deciding whether an applicant is eligible for assistance by virtue of income or capital they may hold. As set out in the Regulations, a person should be on a low income to be considered eligible for assistance. It is not a requirement to be in receipt of an income related benefit to be eligible for assistance from the fund. There are a number of ways to decide whether an individual is on a low income, these are outlined below.
8.24 If the applicant is applying for, in receipt of, or entitled to one of the following income related benefits, the condition can be considered as having been satisfied. It should be noted that not everyone who is entitled to apply for income based benefits does so.
- an income-based jobseeker’s allowance (payable under the Jobseekers Act 1995(49)
- Income support under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992(50)
- Income-related employment and support allowance under Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2007(51)
- Universal credit under Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012(52) or
- State pension credit payable under the State Pension Credit Act 2002(53)
Low Income Indicators
8.25 If an applicant is not currently applying for, in receipt of, or entitled to one of the above income-related benefits, there are a number of other indicators a decision maker can use to help identify those on low incomes. These include:
- a roughly equivalent level of income, as compared to someone receiving one of the above income-related benefits
- an individual in receipt of (or with underlying entitlement to) other benefits, for example, disabled related benefits, contributory-based benefits, retirement pension, carers allowance, tax credits, housing benefit or council tax reduction
- an individual with exceptional outgoings or additional living costs, e.g. additional costs relating to being disabled, looking after a disabled person or having a large number of dependents
- nature of employment, for example, number of hours typically worked, details of agreement (e.g. whether ‘zero-hours’) and whether paid the minimum wage
8.26 This should not be seen as an exhaustive list. An applicant’s circumstances must be taken into account when deciding whether they are on a low income. If there are other financial issues the local authority thinks should be taken into account, such experiencing homelessness, being a modern apprentice, having just been released from prison, or the applicant not having have access to their money for some reason (for example, relating to domestic abuse), the local authority may make the judgement that an applicant on a seemingly higher income should still be considered for a grant.
8.27 The decision maker must be satisfied that the condition of being on a low income is met before proceeding with the application.
8.28 The applicant is assessed as an individual. Information about a partner and other members of family, however, can be collected and taken into account where relevant, for example, in relation to income or health.
If the applicant has savings or capital
8.29 A Community Care Grant should not be awarded if the applicant or their partner has savings of:
- over £700 if they are below pension age
- over £1200 if the applicant is above pension age
8.30 The main examples of capital to be taken in to account, though not an exhaustive list, are:
- current accounts
- savings accounts
- national savings certificates
- fixed term investments
- fixed bonds
- endowment policies which are not held as security over property
- friendly society or other deposit accounts
- trust funds
- property other than the applicant’s home (a discretionary approach should be applied which considers equity levels, whether any equity can be realised, and any profit from rental home)
8.31 Certain capital assets should be disregarded. These categories of capital include:
- business assets
- rights in schemes such as pension schemes, life insurance and funeral plans
- amounts earmarked for special purposes such as essential repairs to property or money set aside by parents or carers for identified future care needs of a disabled child
- payments made for arrears of, or compensation for late payment of, social security benefits for a period of up to 12 months
- payments made for expenses relating to supporting children, for example child maintenance
- a recent grant made by any organisation for a specific purpose or purchase relating to a disabled child or person
- benefits which have been awarded to assist with additional costs relating to disability, such as Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Armed Forces Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance
8.32 Other benefit income should be disregarded for the purposes of calculating savings for a Community Care Grant application if they are earmarked for a specific purpose, for example, living expenses or a specific bill payment. Types of income that should be disregarded in identifying available income are at Annex B. Only money in hand at the time of the application should be considered, not any future payments that will be made.
8.33 Applicants are not required to have made an application to DWP for a Budgeting Loan before they apply for a Community Care Grant.
Exclusions for Community Care Grants
8.34 Local authorities are not required to make a decision on an application for a Community Care Grant if the applicant is:
- resident in a care home, unless there are plans for discharge within eight weeks
- a hospital in-patient unless there are plans for discharge within eight weeks
- lawfully detained unless there are plans for release within eight weeks, or a release on temporary release
- a member of a religious order who is being fully maintained by it
8.35 The time limits mentioned above also apply to decisions in principle (see paragraph 8.41 of this guidance).
8.36 The Regulations specify that the length of time the applicant has received care should be:
- a period of three months or more, any part of which falls within the period of nine months preceding the date of application or
- the applicant has been in a care institution for two or more separate periods within the nine months preceding the date of application
8.37 In the case of people in and leaving prison, the minimum period served in civil custody (rather than sentence) should be three months. Local authorities can use their discretion to make an award for cases that fall a few days short of the minimum period served.
8.38 There is no limit on the number of Community Care Grants that can be awarded to an individual in a year. However, the limitations on repeat applications as described in paragraph 6.1 of this guidance apply.
What support will be given
8.39 Applications for Community Care Grants are for items and awards may be in cash, cash equivalent or in kind. Awards for items should include delivery and installation or fitting fees. Some examples of items for which an award might be made are:
- furniture (like settee, armchair, carpets, curtains, wardrobe)
- household equipment (like cooker, fridge, washing machine, bed, bedding, clothing)
- travel costs – with the exception of those detailed in Annex A – Exclusions From Crisis and Community Care Grants
- removal expenses
- storage charges
- installation charges for cookers and washing machines
- connection charges for gas and electricity
- repair of broken or faulty items or appliances
Feedback from the Social Security Experience Panel cited some cases where contracts for provision of items had placed limitations on awards made. Where an item is not available under the contract, a cash award or an alternative should be considered. E.g. if the person requires an adapted appliance, such as a cooker to fit in a low level kitchen, to meet their needs.
8.40 In making awards for storage charges, local authorities will need to balance the likely cost of storing goods against the cost of disposing of them and buying new goods when the applicant secures a tenancy. The duration of storage costs should be for a reasonable period and not long enough to be considered to have become an on-going expense.
8.41 Local authorities should make an award in principle, for example subject to the successful agreement of a tenancy, to be fulfilled at a later date or where the grant may be paid on leaving prison, where this is appropriate to the applicant’s circumstances. This is to allow applicants and their support workers to plan ahead in securing furniture. Local authorities need not make a decision in principle unless an action, such as release from prison, or the start of a tenancy, is planned within an eight week period. The level of priority that should be applied is the level of priority in place at the time the decision was made, unless a change has been made that would benefit the applicant (for example, a lower priority rating is now in place).
Target Processing Times
8.42 The Regulations require that decisions on Community Care Grants must be made within 15 working days after the local authority has received all the information allowing a decision to be made.
8.43 A working day is defined as between 9.00am and 4.45pm. If an application is received after 4.45pm, it should be treated as being received on the next working day. A working day does not include weekend and bank/public holidays.
8.44 Processing times should be measured from the date of receiving a completed application to the date the award is made.
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