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Scottish Welfare Fund - crisis grants

This advice applies to Scotland

Crisis grants are made to help you cope with unexpected expenses arising out of an emergency or a disaster. They are paid out of the Scottish Welfare Fund which is a national scheme delivered by local authorities.

This page tells you more about crisis grants.

Crisis grants

Crisis grants provide help for people who need money quickly because of an emergency or disaster. They are discretionary grants which means that you may not get one just because you are eligible for one. The local authority will decide whether to award you a grant based on the level of priority that your application is given and the amount of money that is left in the budget. Crisis grants do not have to be repaid.

Who can get a crisis grant

You can get a crisis grant if you are aged 16 or over, on a low income and you are unable to get financial help from any other appropriate source. You do not have to be getting a welfare benefit to be eligible. However if you are getting income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, 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 can get a crisis grant if you are subject to a DWP sanction or disallowance which has reduced your benefit. The reason for your sanction should not be taken into account when the local authority is making a decision about your application.

You cannot normally get a crisis grant to help with your living costs if you have an outstanding benefit claim and you are waiting for your first benefit payment or you have had a change of circumstances which will increase your benefit and you are waiting for your first increased payment. In these situations, you can apply to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for a short term advance of benefit. If your need is severe, your local authority may make an exception and award you a crisis grant even though you are waiting for the DWP to process a claim.

Who cannot get a crisis grant

You cannot normally get a crisis grant if you:

  • have made repeat applications for a grant
  • have resources of your own
  • are in situation which is not a situation which the grant can be made for.

You cannot get a crisis grant if you have applied for the same items or services in the last 28 days unless your circumstances have changed. You cannot normally get more than three crisis grants within a 12 month period unless you can show that it wasn’t your fault that you need another crisis grant.

You cannot 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 are unlikely to be able to get a crisis grant.

What expenses can a crisis grant be made for

A crisis grant can be made when you have experienced some emergency or disaster and you have unexpected expenses that you cannot meet. The grant must be needed to prevent serious damage or serious risk to your health or safety or to the health or safety of your family. Examples of emergency situations include where your money has been lost or stolen and you have no money for living expenses, where there has been a breakdown of relationships in your family, perhaps involving domestic violence, or you have nowhere to stay and may have to sleep rough. Examples of disasters include a serious flood, fire or gas explosion which leads to serious damage to your property.

Examples of the types of living expenses that you might be able to get a grant for following an emergency, include food, essential heating costs, nappies and toiletries, travel costs and costs for accommodation in a hostel.

Examples of the types of items that might be awarded following a disaster are furniture, household equipment, travel costs, removal expenses, storage charges and connection charges for gas and electricity.

Refugee families and crisis grants

Refugee families are entitled to crisis grants following their arrival in Scotland in the same way as anyone else who is experiencing a crisis or disaster of some kind. From 14 May 2018, refugees who are already living in Scotland can apply for a family reunion crisis grant before they are 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 benefit applications to be processed. 

The Scottish Government has written some guidance about family reunion crisis grants. This can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Rent in advance

You cannot get a crisis grant for rent in advance. Rent is one of a number of excluded needs that a crisis grant cannot be paid for. If you need help to pay your rent in advance, you can apply to the DWP for a budgeting loan or to your local authority for a discretionary housing payment. A discretionary housing payment is an extra payment which you can get if you need help with your housing costs.

What expenses are excluded from crisis grants

Some expenses are excluded from crisis grants. For example, you cannot get a crisis 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, holidays, debts or expenses that could be covered by the Best Start Grant or funeral payment.

If you are not sure whether you can get a crisis grant, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

How to apply for a crisis grant

You will need to check how your local authority accepts applications for crisis grants. 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 details of how your local authority accepts applications, as well as its contact details, on the Scottish Government website.

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 download an application form from the local authority's website or request one over the phone.

Crisis 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.

The crisis grant decision

In order to get a crisis grant, you need to be eligible, your situation needs to be one of the situations that a crisis grant can be made for, your application needs 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. For crisis grants, you will usually be awarded cash or cash equivalent such as high street vouchers. You can request to get your award in kind if this would suit you better, for example, you would like to get the actual household goods, such as a fridge. If the grant is for furniture or white goods, it should include delivery and installation or fitting costs.

There is no minimum amount that you can get for a crisis grant. You may have applied for a crisis grant to replace certain items following a disaster or to cover living expenses in an emergency. There is 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. It is set at:

  • 60% of the income support personal allowance for an adult plus full allowance for each child, all pro rata to take account of the next payment of benefit where appropriate if you are liable for rent or mortgage payments, or you are homeless
  • 30% of the income support personal allowance for an adult plus full allowance for each child, pro rata if appropriate, if you are not liable for rent or mortgage payments.

Decisions about crisis grants should be made no later than the end of the next working day after the local authority has got all the information it needs to make a decision. Your local authority should tell you its decision as quickly as possible and may phone, text or email you to let you know. You should still get an official decision letter to back up the phone, text or email.

Challenging a crisis grant 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 .

If your application for a crisis 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 need to make this request within 20 working days of having been told by the local authority about the decision.

If you are still unhappy with the outcome of this review, you can apply to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman for an independent review. You will usually need to do this within one month of getting the decision from the local authority about your first review. There is more information about independent reviews on the SPSO website.

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 are still unhappy, you can then complain to the SPSO.

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

Other help

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

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