November 20, 2013
Funds to ease the pressure
As the weather turns colder, the pressure on many of those living at the sharp end of the welfare reforms can only get worse. The Scottish Welfare Fund, administered by local authorities, was launched in April this year to help ease some of this pressure through non-refundable grants. In the first three months of its operation only 10% of the fund had been used. This is cash support that many vulnerable people in your community could be doing with but may not be aware of. Spread the word.
Since April this year, local authorities have been making awards from the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) to help people in a financial crisis or to enable them to live a more settled way of life by providing essential households items. Over 20,000 of Scotland’s most vulnerable people were helped in the first three months of the year. It’s a good start. But we can do more. The SWF has the ability to support around 200,000 people a year.
Following on from the Department for Work and Pension’s discretionary Social Fund, the SWF is a discretionary budget-limited scheme that helps people on low incomes by awarding non-refundable grants – Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants.
Examples of the types of help that the SWF can provide include situations like:
• The young man who had been living a very unsettled lifestyle, and became homeless. His local authority allocated him a permanent tenancy. Through the SWF, his local authority gave him a Community Care Grant for carpets, curtains, bed and bedding, cooker, fridge and washing machine for his new tenancy. As a result, he has been able to take his child out of care to live with him. This made a huge impact on the quality of life for the man and his child.
• The elderly person whose fridge had been leaking, causing damage to his kitchen and his hall. Through the SWF, his local authority gave him a Community Care Grant to get a new fridge, new vinyl for the kitchen, a new hall carpet and some paint/cleaning equipment for him to clean up his flat – making for a much improved living environment.
• The single parent of two children, and who suffers with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, received assistance when a loan company deducted money from her bank account as a brokers fee, even when she didn’t get the loan that she had applied for. To remove the serious risk to the health of the applicant and her children at the time of the emergency, the local authority awarded her a Crisis Grant to allow her to buy food and fuel for a week.
• the single man who suffers with diabetes, depression and arthritis whose Employment Support Allowance(ESA) had been stopped as he had been found fit for work following his Work Capability Assessment. He had Appealed against the decision to stop his ESA, but had had no money for 3½ weeks, and DWP were unable to say when benefits would be re-instated. His local authority awarded him a Crisis Grant voucher to allow him to buy food and money to restore his electricity supply removing the serious risk to his health for one week until he could pursue his benefits with DWP.
The guidance that underpins the SWF has recently been revised, to broaden the eligibility criteria, reflect lessons learned since the SWF started in April and give clarification where needed. For example; you no longer have to be on qualifying out of work benefit to be apply to apply for a Community Care Grant; and the definition of families subject to exceptional pressure has been expanded to include families who do not have dependent children.
Full details of the type of help that the SWF can provide and how to apply can be found on the Scottish Government website at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/welfarereform/scottishwelfarefund