GUEST Blog by Gillian Ritchie, Welfare Reform Officer, City of Edinburgh Council
The successor arrangements to Crisis Loans for Living Expenses and Community Care Grants is a national scheme delivered through local authorities called the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF). The SWF has been in place since April 2013 and following the passing of the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill 3 March 2015 in the Scottish Parliament a statutory duty has now been placed on local authorities to provide welfare funds. For more information on the SWF system, see the SWF Information leaflet – 2016.
The Scottish Welfare Fund has been operating in Edinburgh since April 2013. A lot has changed since then with the majority of applications to the fund now being made by telephone or online.
This year the total budget is £2,531,436 for both Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants. The total spend up to the end of February is £2,124,770 (84% of the budget for 2015/16). The budget for Crisis Grants is £606,000 and the spend to date is £572,727 (94% of budget). 93% of applications for Crisis Grants are being considered within 2 days and approximately 89% of applications for Community Care Grants are being considered within the target of 15 days.
Both Crisis Grant and Community Care Grant applications have been considered for medium and high priority cases since January 2015 and this will continue for the immediate future in 2015/16. However, pending pressures expected in 2016 from Welfare Reforms may lead to a return to High Priority only to ensure that the most vulnerable citizens can be protected. The monthly spend levels for both grants continue to be monitored on a daily basis to allow appropriate adjustments to be made to the priority levels or budget allocation.
The Furnishing Service provides furniture packages for Community Care Grant awards and has delivered approx 90% of ordered goods within agreed timescales. Positive feedback has been received from the SWF team and customers about the service they receive.
From April 2016, the review process for SWF decisions will change and second tier reviews will be carried out by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). Initial discussions and consultations have taken place, and the service continues to work with the Ombudsman to ensure a smooth transition to the new function. The following leaflet gives more information on how to challenge SWF decisions – SWF – Challenging decisions – 2016.
The case studies below give a snapshot of the impact that the SWF system can have on individuals and their families. People in need who are eligible to apply can make a claim by calling 0131 529 5299 or online by following the link here.
Case Study 1 – Community Care Grant
An online application was made to the SWF team by a couple with 6 children ages 18, 16, 14, 13, 4 and 3 years old. The couple are in employment with zero hour contracts and in receipt of CTC and WTC but repaying back debts to HMRC as well as other outstanding debts.
The family needed some basic items such as carpet, beds and a cooker without the help from SWF there was an increased risk of the children being taken into care. A number of other agencies are helping the family with issues around the condition of the tenancy, care of the family and debts. The need for the requested goods has been supported by their family support worker. The SWF team are working with the family support worker to see if further household items can be provided which could help the family unit remain together.
Case Study 2 – Crisis Grant
The SWF team received a telephone application from a woman in distress as she was fleeing domestic violence. She was receiving support from Women’s Aid with safe and secure accommodation but she was unable to get it as she had had to leave her home with no money, clothing or personal belongings. This situation was exacerbating her mental health issues.
The SWF team established that the applicant had previously suffered from domestic violence and her partner had been in prison. They were able to assist the applicant as her health and wellbeing was at risk and provided her with help with travel costs, money for food and toiletries.