5. The Decision Making Process
5.1 Screening questions or eligibility checkers must not be used to deter applicants from making an application for SWF grants. Even if it seems unlikely that the application will be successful, the applicant should not be prevented from applying. A record should be kept of each application (if a crisis grant and community care grant is applied for on one application, these should be treated as individual to ensure timescales for each are met) and the customer notified of the outcome and how a review can be requested. This ensures that each attempt to apply is captured in the statistical data collected and a decision maker has the opportunity to consider the case and apply discretion.
Conditions which should be met for an applicant to be awarded a grant
5.2 The key test for a Crisis Grant is the severity of the applicant's situation and the likely impact on them and their family.
5.3 The key test for a Community Care Grant is retaining or establishing a settled way of life in the community.
5.4 Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants can cover a wide range of personal circumstances. Whether a grant can be awarded should depend on four separate stages. If an application fails to satisfy any one of these stages, the application should not proceed to the next stage:
Stage 1 – Initial eligibility checks
- Verify identity and establishing that the home address, or the address the applicant intends to live at, is in the local authority, or that the applicant is homeless or has no fixed address
- Check whether the applicant is on a low income or does not have access to their money
- Check that the applicant or their partner does not have any savings or capital that excludes them for being awarded a grant (only relevant to Community Care Grants)
- Check that the applicant or their partner does not have savings or capital or some other source of help that they could use instead (only relevant to Crisis Grant applications)
- Check that the applicant is not being considered for a DWP Hardship Payment, has an application pending for a STBA (only relevant to Crisis Grant applications) or is eligible for a Universal Credit (UC) advance – see detail at 2.23
- Check that the application is not for an excluded item (see Annex A)
- Check that the application is not excluded because the application history precludes a repeat application, including in another local authority area - this includes checking that there has not been a change in circumstances since the last application and consideration given to whether an exception is appropriate to the 3 awards in 12 month restriction.
- Check that the application is not excluded for any other reason
- Applicants do not need to have a National Insurance number to be eligible
Stage 2 - Meeting the qualifying criteria for a grant
- Gather evidence to check whether the applicant's personal circumstances meet the qualifying criteria for the grants
- Check whether there is more appropriate support available to meet this need for example through other local authority capital services
- Check whether other local authority services have already undertaken any assessments which might inform the decision making process
Stage 3 – Prioritisation of items applied for
5.5 Assess whether, taking the applicant's situation and needs in to account, the items applied for are of sufficient priority to warrant a payment from available funds (see Section 3 of the guidance regarding financial management of welfare funds). Each application should be considered on its own merits.
5.6 Each item in the application should be considered in the context of the applicant's circumstances. Decision makers should use the matrix below as a guide to assess the priority of each item, taking into account:
- the need for the item;
- any vulnerabilities the applicant may have;
- the consequences to the applicants health and wellbeing should the item
- not be awarded; and
- the effect the award of the item would have on the applicant
Assessing these combined factors, each item should be given one of three overall priority ratings: high, medium or low.
5.7 The following matrix shows the interaction between the elements of prioritisation. Real situations will not fit neatly in to the boxes, but the matrix can be used as a guide for decision makers to help them improve consistency in decision making.
|Not time critical|
|Vulnerability||Highly||Moderately adverse||Some resilience|
|Consequences of no grant to health/wellbeing||Significantly adverse||Moderately adverse||No identifiable effect|
|Effect of grant||Immediate
5.8 If the decision is to make an award, it may be for all or part of what has been applied for and may be an award of goods or cash.
5.9 As noted above, one of the factors that should be considered when assessing the priority of an application, and the items requested, is the vulnerability of an applicant. Some examples of vulnerabilities which would give an application higher priority are set out at Annex C. This is not an exhaustive list and should not be used rigidly to prioritise applications. Reasons for vulnerability may be specific to the individual and may change over time. If there are multiple reasons for considering a person to be vulnerable, they would be given a higher priority.
Stage 4 – checking priority levels applying at time of decision
5.10 Finally, checking the level of priority that the local authority is paying out on that month, and whether there is sufficient money available in the budget to pay a grant. The level of priority used should be the priority level in place at the time the decision was made unless a change has been made to the benefit of the applicant (e.g. a lower priority level is now in place). This should also apply to independent review stage.
Crisis Grant or Community Care Grant
5.11 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.
5.12 Applicants may make an application for a Crisis Grant and a Community Care Grant at the same time if their circumstances make this necessary, for example a person who has left home because of violence and is in need of immediate support and longer term help to set up home.