The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is abolishing the discretionary Social Fund from April 2013.
It will be replaced by the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF).
This is a discretionary scheme administered by local authorities. A discretionary scheme means it provides grants that do not have to be repaid and provides a better service to vulnerable members of the local community.
Local authorities will have discretion on where in their organisation they process applications (Revenue & Benefits, Social Work, Housing etc) and how they link to existing services.
The SWF is being introduced on an interim basis for two years. The intention is to learn lessons from the operation of the interim scheme, before putting the new arrangements on a statutory footing.
A Community Care Grant aims to help people on benefits who may have to go into care unless they get some support to stay at home. Or, if they are leaving any form of care and need help to set-up their own home. It can also help families facing exceptional pressures, with one-off items, like a cooker or a washing machine.
Community Care Grants align well with the overall approach of early intervention, through targeting transitions that increase risks of adverse outcomes such as leaving prison, moving out of care or taking on a tenancy. They also support specific Scottish Government policies such as care in the community, tackling child poverty and reducing homelessness.
A Crisis Grant aims to help people on qualifying benefits, who are in crisis because of a disaster or an emergency. A disaster is something like a fire or a flood. An emergency can be when they have lost money or it has been stolen.
Crisis Grants do not fit the early intervention approach but have a role in preventing further harm, reducing the longer-term impact on other services.
Not all aspects of DWPs' Social Fund are being abolished. The following will continue to be dealt with by DWP:
Sure Start Maternity Grants
Cold Weather Payments
Winter Fuel Payments
DWP will continue to offer support to people waiting for their first payment of benefit and who, in the absence of any other financial support, need an advance of that benefit to tide them over until the benefit is in payment.
DWP will also continue to provide Budgeting Loans for those on income related benefits and Budgeting Advances for those on Universal Credit.
If you would like to apply for any of the continuing DWP benefits please contact the DWP directly on 0845 603 6967.
The new scheme aims to achieve the advantages of local delivery while maintaining a national character:
Local authorities administer the fund, making the most of opportunities to link the new service to the network of local service provision – advice services, furniture provision, budgeting and money advice etc – providing better support for the end user.
In addition to comprehensive guidance, the Scottish Government has provided a standard application form, a guide for decision makers, a national training programme and funding for a dedicated Development Officer in order to promote consistency and support implementation. The Scottish Government has also provided posters and leaflets for local authorities to publicise the Fund.
The national budget will be split amongst the local authorities according to an agreed funding formula.
The Scottish Welfare Fund totals £33 million: £23.8 million from DWP, plus £9.2 million from the Scottish Government.
The fund will be split between Community Care Grants and Crisis Grants.
The guidance sets out a framework for prioritising applications for awards.
Local authorities have discretion to provide support in different ways.
Not all grants will be cash payments. They may provide vouchers, a fuel card, or furniture if they think that is the best way to meet the need.
The SWF does not provide loans. It provides grants that do not have to be repaid.
Eligibility takes existing Social Fund rules as a starting point but key changes include focusing awards on families under ‘exceptional pressure’ on providing a safe and secure environment for children.
Where possible, local authorities will work with applicants to identify any other support they may need or be entitled to and refer them to relevant services to help them tackle underlying problems.
By linking to local services such as budgeting or other money advice, homelessness teams or social services, individuals, families and communities will be able to manage better in the longer term.
The intention is that local provision of Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants will allow for a more joined up approach than was possible with the national call centre approach.
Scotland’s 32 local authorities began implementing the new Scottish Welfare Fund in April 2013.
It is likely that people accessing the new Fund may require wider support to help with a range of issues and challenges that may have led them to the Fund in the first place.
In assessing the needs of these individuals/families there may also be additional issues which emerge and which require other interventions and support to be put in place.
Some of these supports and services may come from within the local authority e.g. Social Work, Homelessness Teams, Children’s Services etc.
However, the Third Sector has a role to play in providing advice, practical assistance and support.
The Third Sector, so called to distinguish it from the other two sectors of the economy: public and private, is playing an increasingly important role in our society.
Social enterprises, also known as community enterprises, together with charities, voluntary and community groups and other not-for-profit organisations, make up the Third Sector, also known as the Social Economy.
Essentially, social enterprises are businesses that operate for the benefit of the community.
Like any other businesses, social enterprises generate income through commercial activity, such as trading in goods and services.
However, the difference is that they reinvest their profits to maximise social, community or environmental benefits, and are not driven by the need to maximise profit for owners or shareholders.
A social enterprise is not, strictly speaking, a not-for-profit organisation; rather, it is an organisation which has social benefits as the foundation of its activities, and uses the surplus it generates to further these ends.
The fifty or so furniture re-use organisations across Scotland are all social enterprises, operating for the benefit of their communities.
Many furniture re-use projects are now becoming Revolve accredited. Revolve is a Zero Waste Scotland initiative and accreditation shows how organisations are fully committed to providing a quality service, which in turn increases confidence in any type of local authority partnership.
A few local authorities and housing associations offer vouchers that can be used to buy furniture for people in particular circumstances e.g. people moving out of homelessness, people on low incomes etc.
These vouchers may have to be spent at a particular furniture re-use organisation and can be exchanged for quality, re-used items of furniture. For more information, contact your local Housing Department or Homelessness Unit.