CAS has recently submitted a response to the Scottish Government's latest consultation on arrangements for the permanent Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF). This response is based on evidence from bureaux on how the interim SWF has been working for clients so far.
The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015, which gives the SWF a permanent statutory basis, was passed earlier this year. The Scottish Government has recently been consultating on draft regulations and guidance, which contain much of the detail as to how the SWF operates. The permanent SWF is due to come into operation from April 2016.
Since the interim SWF was introduced, CAS has worked closely with the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to improve policy and delivery, providing feedback of bureau and client experience. We have welcomed the open approach that has been taken to the development of the SWF so far.
The SWF provides a crucial safety net for vulnerable individuals and families experiencing a crisis or who need support to live independently. While improvements have been made to the interim SWF since it was established, there are a number of issues which still need to be addressed. In particular, we continue to have concerns that many people who may be eligible are not accessing the SWF. Further, there is still insufficient preventative and holistic support available for vulnerable individuals and families.
These issues must be addressed as the permanent SWF is established, particularly as people are likely to face additional pressures as a result of current and future reforms to social security, including the introduction of Universal Credit and proposed changes to tax credits.
Our consultation response addresses the following key areas:
- Overall access to the SWF
- Assessing low income
- Limits on awards
- Prevention and holistic support
- Fulfilment of awards
- Process and administration
- Other issues relating to the regulations and guidance