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Scottish Welfare Fund - community care grants

This advice applies to Scotland

Community care grants are made to help people on a low income live independently in the community or to help people maintain their home in the face of exceptional pressure. They are paid out of the Scottish Welfare Fund which is a national scheme delivered by local authorities.

This page tells you more about community care grants.

Community care grants

Community care grants are intended to help with expenses so that people can live in the community and families can stay together. Community care grants are discretionary, which means that even if you are eligible, you will only get a grant if the local authority decides that your need is important and there is enough money left in the budget to pay you a grant. Community care grants do not have to be repaid.

Who can get a community care grant

You can get a community care grant if you are aged 16 or over and you are on a low income. You do not have to be getting benefits to be eligible. If you are getting income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), universal credit or pension credit then you will be considered to be on a low income.

You can only usually get a crisis grant from the local authority where you live or where you are about to move to. 

You cannot get a community care grant if you or your partner has capital (for example, savings) of more than £700 if you are below pensionable age or more than £1,200 if you are above pensionable age.

What situations can a community care grant help with

You can only get a community care grant to help you with certain situations. You can get one to:

  • help you establish yourself in the community following a period of care or imprisonment, for example in a hospital, care home or prison. You must have been receiving care for at least 3 months or on a regular basis
  • help you stay in the community rather than going into care. You will need to show that a community care grant will help reduce the risk of you having to go into care, and this may be to do with, for example, your physical or mental health or your living conditions
  • help you set up home in the community after an unsettled way of life, for example, if you have been homeless
  • help you stay in your home in the face of exceptional pressure on yourself or on a member of your family. Examples of exceptional pressures include chronic illness or disability, or the breakdown of a relationship leading to the family moving home. From 1 April 2017, if you are aged 18-21 and you are not eligible for the housing costs element of Universal Credit, you may be able to get a community care grant under this category. The grant will help you pay for your housing costs and so maintain your home (see below)
  • help you care for a prisoner or young offender on release or temporary licence.

Examples of the types of items that you might get a community care grant for are furniture, household equipment like a cooker or a washing machine, travel costs, removal expenses, and storage charges. You could also get a grant to help with living expenses if, for example, you are going to be looking after a prisoner or young offender on home leave, as the prisoner or young offender will not have any income to pay for these costs.

You cannot get a community care grant if you have applied for the same item or service within the previous 28 days unless your circumstances have changed.

Young people aged 18-21, Universal Credit and housing costs

From 1 April 2017 some young people aged 18-21 who claim Universal Credit in full service areas will not be able to get the housing costs element of Universal Credit. The Scottish Government have temporarily extended the Scottish Welfare Fund so that young people in this situation can get a community care grant to help them pay for their housing costs and so maintain their home. If you need help applying for a community care grant in this situation, you can get help from a Citizens' Advice Bureaux - where to get advice.

What expenses are excluded from community care grants

Some expenses are excluded from community care grants. For example, you cannot get a community care grant for any expense outside the United Kingdom, the cost of a school uniform, travelling expenses to and from school, school meals, medical costs, housing costs (although 18-21 year olds who are getting Universal Credit and are no longer entitled to the housing element, may be able to get a community care grant if they can establish that they are under exceptional pressure), holidays, debts or expenses that could be covered by a maternity grant or funeral payment.

How to apply for a community care grant

You will need to check how your local authority accepts applications. It may accept applications by post, online, by phone or in a face to face interview. It may accept applications by all of these methods or only one, for example by phone. You can find information about how your local authority accepts applications, as well as contact details for all the local authorities in Scotland on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot.

If you can apply to your local authority by post or online, you will need to complete your local authority's application form. You may be able to get a copy of the application form by downloading it from your local authority's website or by requesting a copy over the phone.

Community care grants are discretionary grants, so it is important to include all the relevant information on the application form and explain what could happen if you do not get a grant. A social worker or someone else who works with you may be able to help in completing your application, or you can seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens’ Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

The community care grant decision

In order to get a community care grant, you need to be eligible, your situation needs to be one of the situations that a community care grant can be made for, the items you have applied for need to be given a high enough priority and there needs to be enough money left in the local authority budget.

Local authorities assess priority of applications by looking at how much you need the grant, how vulnerable you are and what is likely to happen if you do not get a grant. Examples of factors that might increase your vulnerability are chronic illness, disability, being a lone parent, addictions or misuse of alcohol or drugs.

You may get exactly what you asked for but you also may only get a part of what you have applied for. You can be given help in kind, rather than cash. For example, you may be awarded travel vouchers, furniture, white goods or retail vouchers. If the grant is for furniture or white goods, it should include delivery and installation or fitting costs.

Decisions about community care grants should be made within 15 working days of the local authority getting all the information needed for a decision to be made.

Challenging a decision

Useful leaflet

The Scottish Government has produced a leaflet about how to challenge a Scottish Welfare Fund decision. You can find it on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot .

If your application for a community care grant is refused, or you are given less than you applied for, you can ask the local authority to look again at the decision. You usually need to ask the local authority to review the decision within 20 working days of finding out about the original decision.

If you are still unhappy with the outcome of this review, you can apply to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) for an independent review. Again you usually need to do this within 20 working days of finding out the result of the first review. There is more information about independent reviews on the SPSO website at www.spso.org.uk.

If you accept the decision that the local authority has made about your application, but you are unhappy for some other reason, for example, you think you received poor service, you can complain to the local authority. If you have been through the local authority's complaints procedure and you are still unhappy, you can then complain to the SPSO.

If you are thinking of challenging a community care grant decision, you can get advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

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