1.1 The Scottish Welfare Fund ( SWF) is a national scheme, underpinned by law [1,2] and delivered on behalf of the Scottish Government by all 32 local authorities. It aims to provide a safety net to people on low incomes by the provision of Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants.
1.2 The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015 (“the Act”) places a statutory responsibility on each local authority to maintain a Welfare Fund  . The Act also gives powers to Scottish Ministers to make regulations and publish guidance, setting out how these funds should be administered. The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Regulations 2016 (“the Regulations”) and this guidance have been subject to public consultation (between 27 May 2015 and 21 August 2015). The guidance is reviewed annually and is issued by Scottish Ministers under Section 6 of the Act.
1.3 It is important to recognise that local authorities have extensive discretion over how the scheme is delivered in their area, from taking and processing applications to fulfilment of grants. This allows the scheme to be tailored to specific local needs. In addition, by making the point of access close to communities, local authorities are better able to provide a holistic service – making links across services and local organisations.
1.4 This guidance does not seek to cover all scenarios; rather it aims to provide a framework for decision making in order to promote consistency. The absence of guidance on a particular situation does not necessarily mean that a grant should be refused. Where discretion is exercised, it should align to the objectives of the SWF as set out in paragraph 2.1. At all times, local authorities must ensure applicants are treated with respect, and their dignity is preserved  .
1.5 A separate advice note called “Scottish Welfare Fund: Assistance with Housing Costs: 18-21 year olds” (April 2017) is available on the Scottish Government website. It was our intention to test out this advice note with local authorities, refine it and then incorporate it into the statutory SWF guidance at the 2018 review. However, on 29 th March 2018 it was announced the Department for Work and Pensions had reversed its policy in this area so work to integrate it into the main SWF guidance has been suspended. The SWF should be used to continue to provide housing costs for 18-21 year olds until further advice is provided.
1.6 Local authorities should note the statutory nature of this guidance and their responsibility to have regard to it, and any appendages, as required by the Act and regulations. Local authorities should also have regard to the findings of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman ( SPSO)’s SWF Annual Report 2016/17 which highlighted the need to follow the guidance correctly as one of the areas for improvement.