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Scottish Welfare Fund - crisis grants

This advice applies to Scotland

Coronavirus – if you need emergency help

If you need emergency help to pay for essentials like food, gas or electricity because of coronavirus, you can apply for a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Your local council will check if you're eligible. It's worth applying even if you're not sure you qualify. Councils are getting more money so they can pay out more grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund because of coronavirus. 

If you've already had three crisis grants in the past year, you might still be able to get another one. The Scottish government has said that councils should allow this because of coronavirus.

What is a crisis grant

Crisis grants provide help if you need money quickly because of an emergency or a disaster. They're 'discretionary grants', which means you might not get one automatically just because you're eligible for one.

Your local council will decide whether to award you a grant based on the priority level of your application and the amount of money left in the council's budget. If you get a crisis grant, you don't have to pay it back.

Read more about crisis grants on mygov.scot.

Who can get a crisis grant

You can get a crisis grant if you're:

  • aged 16 or over
  • on a low income, and
  • unable to get financial help from any other appropriate source.

You don't have to be getting benefits to be eligible. But if you're getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Pension Credit, you'll be considered to be on a low income.

You can usually only get a crisis grant from the local council where you live or where you're about to move to. 

You can get a crisis grant if your benefit is stopped or reduced by a sanction from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The local council shouldn't take the reason for your sanction into account when deciding about your application.

If you're from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland

If you're a national of a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland, your council should look at your crisis grant application in the normal way. That is because your immigration status doesn't exclude you from applying for help. The EEA includes all EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

If you're waiting for the result of a habitual residence test or if an appeal for benefits is pending, your local council might still award you a crisis grant.

Refugee families

Refugee families are entitled to crisis grants after they arrive in Scotland if they have leave to remain and are experiencing a crisis or disaster.

Refugees who are already living in Scotland can apply for a family reunion crisis grant before they're reunited with other family members who are about to arrive in Scotland. This is to help newly reunited families cope financially while the newly arrived refugees wait for their benefit applications to be processed. 

Who can't get a crisis grant

You can't get a crisis grant if you've applied for the same items or services in the last 28 days, unless your circumstances have changed.

You can't normally get more than three crisis grants in a 12-month period, unless you can show that it wasn't your fault that you need another crisis grant.

You can't get a crisis grant if you have resources of your own which you could use to help you deal with the emergency or disaster. For example, if you have family who can help you out financially, you're unlikely to get a crisis grant.

If you're waiting for benefits

You can't normally get a crisis grant to help with your living costs if:

  • you have an outstanding benefit claim and you're waiting for your first benefit payment
  • you've had a change of circumstances which will increase your benefit and you're waiting for your first increased payment.

In these situations, you can ask the DWP for a short-term benefit advance or a Universal Credit advance. You should apply via your Jobcentre or the phone number for the benefit you've applied for.

Read more about short-term benefit advances and Universal Credit advances.

If your need is severe, your local council might make an exception and award you a crisis grant while your application to the DWP is in progress. For example, this might be appropriate if the DWP lost your application and you've had to reapply.

If you're subject to immigration control

You can't get a crisis grant if you're a person subject to immigration control who has no recourse to public funds.

What can a crisis grant cover

A crisis grant can be made when you've experienced some emergency or disaster and you have unexpected expenses that you can't meet. The grant must be needed to prevent serious damage or risk to the health or safety of you or your family.

Crisis grants can cover a range of different situations, so it's worth applying even if you're not sure that you qualify.

Emergencies and disasters

Examples of emergencies include:

  • your money has been lost or stolen and you have no money for living expenses
  • there's been a breakdown of relationships in your family, perhaps involving domestic violence
  • you have nowhere to stay and might have to sleep rough.

Examples of disasters include a serious flood, fire or gas explosion which has caused serious damage to your property.

Living expenses and items

Living expenses that you might be able to get a grant for after an emergency include food, essential heating costs, nappies and toiletries, travel costs and costs for accommodation in a hostel.

Items that might be awarded after a disaster include furniture, household equipment, travel costs, removal expenses, storage charges and connection charges for gas and electricity.

What can't a crisis grant cover

Some expenses are excluded from crisis grants.

You can't get a crisis grant for rent in advance for new accommodation. If you need help to pay your rent in advance, you might be able to get a discretionary housing payment from your local council or a budgeting loan or budgeting advance from the DWP.

If you want more information about discretionary housing payments, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. Find out where to get advice.

You can't get a crisis grant for:

How to apply for a crisis grant

You'll need to check how your local council accepts applications for crisis grants. It might accept applications by post, online, by phone or in a face-to-face interview. It might accept applications by all of these methods or only one of them.

You can read more about how to apply for a crisis grant on mygov.scot.

If you can apply to your local council by post or online, you'll need to complete your council's application form. You might be able to download an application form from the council's website or ask for one over the phone.

It's important to include all the relevant information on the application form and explain what could happen if you don't get a grant. A social worker or someone else who works with you might be able to help you complete your application. Or you can get help from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. Find out where to get advice.

How a decision is made

Local councils give each crisis grant application a priority level: high, medium or low. Then they decide which priority levels of application they can afford to pay each month.

For example, a local council might decide that in some months, it can only afford to pay high-priority applications. At other times, it might be able to pay high-, medium- and low-priority applications.

To decide on the priority level of your application, your local council will look at:

  • how much you need the grant
  • how vulnerable you are
  • what's likely to happen if you don't get a grant.

Examples of factors that might increase your vulnerability are:

  • having a chronic illness
  • being disabled
  • being a single parent
  • being addicted to alcohol or drugs.

You might get exactly what you asked for, or you might only get a part of what you applied for. You'll usually be awarded cash or a cash equivalent, such as high street vouchers.

You can ask to get your award in kind if this would suit you better, for example if you'd like to get household goods, such as a fridge. If the grant is for furniture or white goods, it should include delivery and installation or fitting costs.

Minimum and maximum amounts

There's no minimum amount that you can get for a crisis grant. You might have applied for a crisis grant to replace certain items after a disaster or to cover living expenses in an emergency.

There's no maximum amount that you can get for a crisis grant for items.

There is a maximum amount that you can get for a crisis grant for living expenses. The level depends on your situation, as follows:

If you're liable for rent or mortgage payments, or you're homeless, the level is 60% of the Income Support personal allowance for an adult plus the full allowance for each child. These amounts are applied proportionally to take account of your next benefit payment, if appropriate.

If you're not liable for rent or mortgage payments, the level is 30% of the Income Support personal allowance for an adult plus the full allowance for each child. These amounts are applied proportionally to take account of your next benefit payment, if appropriate.

You can track your application by contacting the local council you applied to. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

When will a decision be made

Your local council should decide on your application no later than the end of the next working day after the council has got all the information it needs.

Your council should tell you its decision as quickly as possible. The council might phone, text or email you to let you know. You should still get an official decision letter to back up the phone call, text or email.

Challenging a crisis grant decision

If your local council refuses your application, or you're given less than you applied for, you can ask the council to look again at the decision. You need to make this request within 20 working days of the local council telling you about the decision.

If you're unhappy with the outcome of this review, you can apply to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) for an independent review. You'll usually need to do this within one month of getting the decision from the local council about your first review. Read more about independent reviews on the SPSO website.

If you accept the local council's decision about your application but are unhappy for another reason, for example you think you got a bad service, you can complain to the local council. If you've been through the local council's complaints procedure and are still unhappy, you can then complain to the SPSO.

Help with challenging a decision

If you're thinking of challenging a crisis grant decision, you can get advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau. Find out where to get advice.

You can also read a leaflet about how to challenge a Scottish Welfare Fund decision on the Scottish government website .

Foodbanks

If you can't manage to feed yourself or your family, you might be able to get emergency help from a local foodbank.

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