The Scottish Welfare Fund set up in 2013 by the Scottish Government to help out households most in need has aided 254,000 individual households, with awards totalling £132.6 million to 31 March 2017.
On 1 April 2013, the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) abolished two elements of the Social Fund – Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans – and transferred funds previously spent on them to Scottish Ministers. In its place, the Scottish Government established the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF). The Scottish Welfare Fund is a national scheme run by local authorities.
The Scottish Welfare Fund comprises of Community Care Grants – which help people to live independently – and Crisis Grants, which provide a safety net in a disaster or emergency. In addition, in 2016 a new category of ‘Delay in payment of benefits’ was introduced. In 2016/17, just over 17,500 applications were made for this reason, accounting for around 10% of all Crisis Grant applications.
What does the Community Care Grant do?
- help people establish themselves in the community following a period of care, where circumstances indicate that there is a risk of the person not being able to live independently without this help;
- help people remain in the community rather than going in to care where circumstances indicate that there is a risk of the person not being able to live independently without this help;
- help people set up home in the community, as part of a planned resettlement programme, following an unsettled way of life;
- help families facing exceptional pressures, with one-off items, like a cooker or a washing machine, and;
- help people to care for a prisoner or young offender on release on temporary licence.
During 2016/17, 67,905 Community Care Grant applications were decided and an award was made in 42,775 cases – 63% of cases were successful.
Local Authorities awarded £25.4 million in Community Care Grants, with an average award value of around £595, the most common expenditure was on floor coverings, white goods, and furniture.
What does the Crisis Grant do?
A Crisis Grant aims to help people, on a low income, who are in crisis because of a disaster or an emergency. A disaster is something like a fire or a flood. An emergency might be when money has been stolen.
During 2016/17, 164,965 Crisis Grant applications were decided and an award was made in 116,830 cases – 71% of applications were successful.
Local Authorities awarded £9.3 million in Crisis Grants with an average award value of around £79. The most common expenditure was on food, essential heating costs and other living expenses.
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman in the Scottish Government said:
“The Scottish Welfare Fund continues to provide a vital lifeline, supporting over a quarter of a million low-income households, who are suffering from emergency and disasters, in the last 4 years. For many, it provides much needed help for the everyday items that no one should be denied simply because of the hardship they face.”
“It is not acceptable in 2017 that people find themselves in these situations through no fault of their own. Nor is it acceptable that the Scottish Government is having to plug a gap created by the UK Government so that we can try to keep people from even further hardship. This fund underlines our commitment to put dignity and respect at the heart of our plans for social security. We will continue to do all we can to support hard pressed families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet.”
The UK Government transferred the funding spent in Scotland on its Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for Living Expenses to the Scottish Government. For 2013/14 and 2014/15 this amounted to £23.8 million. The Scottish Government topped this amount up by a further £9.2 million, giving the Scottish Welfare Fund a total budget of £33 million for both these years. This level has been maintained in 2016/17 by the Scottish Government.
Local Authorities have been able to top this up with their own funds together with any underspends carried forward from previous years.
The figures also show that increases for applications to Crisis Grants were for delays in welfare payments and although the Community Care applications had overall remained the same they had increased due to ‘Planned resettlement after an unsettled way of life’ (1,535 applications, 24%) and ‘Families facing exceptional pressure – for relationship breakdown reasons’ (420 applications, 12%).
Over half of all awards go to households in the most deprived areas of Scotland. The most common type of household in receipt of Community Care or Crisis Grant Funds is a ‘Single Person’ household (54%) with those containing children (including single parent, couple with children and other with children) account for a further 33% of the scheme’s funds.
You can access the data here
Reporter: Fiona Grahame