Scottish Welfare Fund: statutory guidance – March 2021
An update to the Scottish Welfare Fund statutory guidance, previously published in May 2019, to include a section on the Self-isolation Support Grant and to correct any inaccuracies or anachronisms which have occurred since the previous publication.
10. Family Reunion Crisis Grant
Families arriving to be with their families under the Family Reunion Rules
10.1 The Scottish Government has committed to establishing a process for the delivery of Family Reunion Crisis Grants for refugee families, who settle in Scotland under family reunion rules. This will support the integration of refugee families arriving in Scotland under family reunion rules, who would otherwise be destitute. It will provide them with the financial support they need to meet their basic needs during their first days in Scotland, before they are able to access welfare benefits.
10.2 The Scottish Welfare Fund will be the legislative and delivery mechanism for Family Reunion Crisis Grants, as refugee families arriving in Scotland for family reunion are already entitled to crisis grants through the SWF following their arrival.
10.3 Under the Family Reunion Crisis Grant process, sponsors (i.e. the member of the family already in Scotland) will be able to make an application for a crisis grant before family members arrive in Scotland for family reunion, with the same eligibility criteria as currently for SWF. If approved, grants will be paid to the sponsor prior to the arrival of the family members in Scotland.
Scottish Welfare Fund
10.4 The Scottish Government has agreed with COSLA for local authorities in partnership with British Red Cross to receive and process crisis grant and community care grant applications in advance of the family members' arrival in the local authority area. These arrangements will prevent destitution on arrival in Scotland and ease the process of settling in a new country. The family's Sponsor will receive support from the British Red Cross to make the application.
10.5 The Scottish Government has committed to funding both the programme and administration costs (this is separate to the main SWF budget) to ensure the effective delivery of this policy. Local authorities will be reimbursed for each award paid.
10.6 The applicant will be the family member already resident in Scotland and will be known as the 'Sponsor' for the family travelling to Scotland under the family reunion rules.
10.7 The applicant will be referred to as the 'Sponsor' in correspondence or evidence provided in support of the application.
10.8 SWF applications in respect of Family Reunion Crisis Grants will be made in advance of the family members' arrival in Scotland.
10.9 Once it is known that the family has been granted permission to travel, the sponsor will meet or speak with the British Red Cross at a prearranged date and time, to complete the online SWF application form (this will usually be around the time an application will be made for a Universal Credit (UC) or a Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) joint claim in preparation for the family's arrival in Scotland).
10.10 The sponsor (as the applicant) may apply for assistance with living costs (crisis grant) and other essential items if required (community care grant) to enable the family to settle into the community on arrival, for example beds, bedding. When making such an application, the sponsor should use their current address, even if it is not the address where the family will live following arrival.
10.11 When completing the online application the applicant/British Red Cross should ensure they select 'Family Reunion' on the drop down menu for the reason for the application. This will ensure that the application is clearly identified and the correct data is collected for statistical purposes. Where this option is not available, the British Red Cross should contact the relevant local authority.
10.12 A named contact (the British Red Cross support worker) should be provided on the application. Any enquiries for the British Red Cross about Family Reunion Crisis Grants should be sent to Jonathon Fowle, Family Reunion Integration Service Manager: JonathanDF@redcross.org.uk .
10.13 Applicants should be aged 16 years or more and live in the local authority area in which the application is being made and meet the initial eligibility checks set out in 5.4 Stage 1.
Considering whether applicants circumstances meet the requirement for an award
10.14 Although the applicant may already be in receipt of benefits, it is important to remember that the benefits paid will be solely for the applicant at that time, with benefit payments for the family being paid after their arrival.
10.15 In many cases, there will be more than one family member arriving to join the applicant. Consideration should also be given to the fact that the family members may have no other means of support and may be destitute and at risk of homelessness on arrival in Scotland without the applicant receiving a SWF award.
10.16 The key test of eligibility for a crisis grant is the severity of the applicant's situation and the likely impact on them and their family.
10.17 The key test of eligibility for a community care grant is retaining or establishing a settled way of life in the community.
10.18 The applicant will be either setting up or attempting to maintain an established home in the community. It is possible that the applicant's circumstances will satisfy more than one of the qualifying conditions for a CCG.
Evidence in support of application
10.19 The applicant (Sponsor) and/or British Red Cross will provide the original family reunion visas' or a letter from the Home Office confirming the issue of a travel visa, valid for a period of 30 days, permitting the family members to travel to the UK to reunite with the Sponsor
10.20 It should be noted that there may be a delay in the applicant actually receiving this letter due to the process involved. It is, therefore, important to act quickly on receipt of the application, as the sponsor will only have a short period in which to prepare for the family's arrival.
10.21 The applicant may also provide travel tickets and dates of travel for the family members travelling. It is possible that the British Red Cross will also provide the travel costs for the family.
10.22 The evidence provided in support of the application will be sent by email immediately to the local authority SWF team. Delays in sending the evidence will result in delays in processing the application and in turn a delay in payment or award of any goods which will have a negative impact on the applicant and their family.
10.23 The decision maker will make a decision based on the evidence provided in accordance with the SWF Guidance, however the decision maker will also have discretion to make a decision out with the guidance. In doing so the decision maker should ensure that the reasons and justifications for the decision are clearly recorded.
10.24 Awards should meet the needs of the applicant and their family.
10.25 Local authorities retain discretion in determining awards.
10.26 It will be appropriate in some circumstances to pay above or below the level that would normally have been payable.
10.27 If an applicant on Universal Credit applies for a Family Reunion Crisis Grant for living costs, and it is know that their next payment date is more than two weeks away, a decision maker can make an award to cover a period longer in duration.
Notifying the decision
10.28 All applicants should receive an official decision and that should be in writing (letter or email – whichever the applicant prefers), unless the applicant requests otherwise. If sending by email, the letter should meet the same requirements as outlined in section 4.32 of the guidance.
10.29 The decision letter issued to the applicant should be copied to the British Red Cross via email at the same time.
Payment of Crisis Grant
10.30 A crisis grant payment will be made to the applicant's bank account on the day before the family's arrival. The British Red Cross will explain the purpose for which the funds may be used to the applicant. If the applicant does not have a bank account, another payment method, such as Paypoint, should be used.
10.31 Where the applicant reports any change in circumstance, British Red Cross should contact the local authority immediately to discuss whether the payment should be issues and any next steps.
10.32 For a community care grant, where an application has been made in advance of the family's arrival, an 'in-principle' decision should be given and arrangements made for the applicant to contact the local authority when the date the family arriving is confirmed.
10.33 Arrangements should be made with the goods supplier for the delivery of goods awarded to the family for their arrival.
10.34 A decision maker may contact the applicant for more information, check with third parties (subject to the applicant's agreement) such as landlords. When this type of contact takes place, it should be recorded.
10.35 The sponsor and family members may already be receiving integration support including welfare and other advice from British Red Cross, and this is likely to continue until the family has accessed all key benefits and services. However, local authorities can also ensure that they build and maintain relationships with a range of local partners, including NHS, third sector, advice agencies and money advice agencies including credit unions if required. This will ensure, where appropriate, people accessing the SWF can be signposted to other services which could address their wider needs.
10.36 Local authorities are required to record the total number of
- CG & CCG applications
- CG & CCG awarded
- Total spend on a monthly basis
10.37 An additional spreadsheet for this purpose will be provided by Scottish Government to local authorities. The recording of application reference numbers of all applications will allow the statistics for these types of applications to be separated from the main quarterly SWF statistics in the official Scottish Government statistics publication. The additional spreadsheet should be completed and submitted at the same time as the SWF Management return.
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