Consultation on Regulations and Statutory Guidance under the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015

Closed 21 Aug 2015

Opened 27 May 2015

Feedback Updated 7 Jan 2016

We Asked

We asked for your views on the proposed Regulations and Statutory Guidance supporting the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015, which places the interim Scottish Welfare Fund  into law from April 2016.

You Said

We received 63 responses which demonstrated broad support for the Regulations and assisted with the direction of the Statutory Guidance and refreshed Application Form.

We Did

The draft Welfare Funds (Scotland) Regulations 2016 were laid before Parliament on 16 December 2015.  The Statutory Guidance and Application Form are currently being revised and updated, taking into account the views from the consultation.  The Regulations, Guidance and Application Form  will come into force from April 2016, and be published at that time.

Published Responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.

Overview

Scottish Ministers have always planned to set out the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) in law, using the experience of running the Fund on an interim basis since April 2013.  The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015, passed on 3 March 2015 in the Scottish Parliament, is the first step in that process.  The Act places a statutory duty on local authorities (LAs) to provide welfare funds, in line with regulations and statutory guidance.  We plan to have the full legal framework for the SWF to be in place for April 2016. 

 

This consultation is about the next stage in the process – the regulations and the statutory guidance that will give the detail of how LAs should provide their SWF. 

 

The SWF started in April 2013, just after Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) crisis loans for living expenses and community care grants were abolished.  The UK Government asked LAs in England to meet the need for grants.  The Scottish and Welsh Governments were given the money that had been spent on the grants and could decide how to spend it. 

 

In Scotland, we took on new powers to make social security payments, under the Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Schedule 5) (No. 2) Order 2013.  Scottish Ministers decided to use these new powers to set up the SWF, to be delivered by Scottish LAs.  Scottish Ministers have issued national ministerial guidance to LAs on how to make grants under Section 21 of the Local Government Act 2003 – the Power to Advance Wellbeing.  The national ministerial guidance is based on the DWP Social Fund, but is different in some significant ways.  There are two types of grants under the SWF: crisis grants (CGs), and community care grants (CCGs).  A CG aims to help people on low incomes, who are in crisis because of a disaster or an emergency.  A CCG aims to help people on low incomes, who may have to go into care unless they get some support to stay at home.  Or, if they are leaving care and need help to set-up their own home.  For example, they may be leaving hospital, prison or a residential care home.  CCGS also help families facing exceptional pressures, with one-off items, like a cooker or a washing machine. 

 

The SWF is, and will remain, a discretionary scheme that prioritises applications according to need.  This means that a decision is made on each application, depending on the circumstances of the applicant rather than there being situations which make people entitled to a grant.  The grants do not have to be repaid.  LAs can provide grants in different ways so not all grants are cash payments.  They may give fuel cards, furniture, or other forms of grant, if they think that the best way to meet the need of the applicant. 

 

Scottish Ministers intend that the permanent SWF should continue to operate in much the same way as it does now – with one significant difference.  At present, people who do not think that the decision on their application was correct can ask the LA to look at it again.  This is known as a review.  It can be a two-stage process.  First, another LA decision maker will review the application and make a new decision.  If the applicant is still not happy, they can ask for a second tier review, where an impartial LA panel looks again at the application.  From April 2016, the review process will change and the second tier reviews will be looked at by the Scottish Public Sector Ombudsman (SPSO).  This will introduce more independence into the review process.     

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Why We Are Consulting

The 32 Scottish Welfare Funds set up by the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015, will be managed by LAs according to regulations under the Act, and statutory guidance.  The interim SWF has already been making grants for two years so LAs have good experience of what works and what does not work.  The interim SWF is meeting the needs of applicants and there are systems in place to check how well the service is running and improve the way it works.  We set up the improvement system to help decision makers make the right decision every time.  It also helps to make sure that all LAs make their decisions in the same way, following the guidance that the Scottish Government has given them.  The permanent SWF will be based on the interim SWF but there will be some changes because of the lessons we have learned.  This consultation asks questions about:

 

  • Some policy issues on which people may have different views.
  • Changes between the guidance under the interim SWF and the statutory guidance under the permanent SWF, where we want to be sure that we understand what will happen as a result.
  • Equalities impacts of the permanent SWF, to use in our equality impact assessment.
  • Whether the draft regulations will help decision makers to make the right decisions, in the same way as decision makers in other LAs and whether they will help the SPSO to carry out effective reviews of cases.
  • The standard application form for the SWF, so that we can improve this for the permanent SWF. 

 

Audiences

  • People of Scotland
  • Local Authorities
  • Third sector, voluntary and equality organisations
  • Local Government