February 28, 2012 | Admin | Leave a comment Scottish Crisis Loans and social fund Main Findings ?? Respondents welcomed the devolution of the Social Fund as an opportunity for the Scottish Government to remedy the deficiencies and complexities of the existing system and to secure better integration with other aspects of welfare and public policy in Scotland. More information was sought about the parameters of the future system and there were caveats in relation to funding and financial risk, eligibility, the interface with forthcoming welfare benefit changes, equalities issues and accessibility. ?? Respondents gave a qualified endorsement of the proposal for a single grant fund, combining the current systems of grants and loans. ?? Overall, where a preference was expressed, it was for local delivery, particularly by local authorities; they were the most widely proposed organisations to take on successor arrangements. Preference for central delivery came almost entirely from the third sector. However, respondents also saw scope for taking the best elements of both central and local delivery approaches. ?? Respondents felt a blend of delivery channels would best support a client-focused approach, able to meet a variety of needs, by providing a tailored service to assist the most vulnerable, to promote accessibility of the service and give choice. ?? Responses indicated that eligibility and prioritisation should be based on individual need and the immediacy and extent of any threat to health and wellbeing, rather than on particular groups or events. Respondents felt that eligibility definitions should be provided as guidance rather than being prescriptive. ?? The provision of both grants and goods was well received and other non-compulsory support, such as budgeting advice, was endorsed. ?? The successor arrangements were seen to offer an opportunity to establish an effective appeals system as well as reducing the volume of appeals. 2 Background The devolved administration in Scotland has responsibility for establishing successor arrangements for two elements of the discretionary Social Fund — Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans. These findings detail the views of respondents to a consultation about how these aspects of the Fund might operate in Scotland when funding transfers from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to the Scottish Government in April 2013. The results will inform Ministerial decisions for successor arrangements. The Scottish Government consultation paper, published in August 2011 sought views on the successor arrangements including: the potential format of funding and balance of grants, loans and goods, different ways to deliver support (centrally or locally); delivery channels, eligibility criteria and how appeals should be organised. The paper made it clear that the devolved funding should continue to address similar needs to those of the current system, administered by Jobcentre Plus. Overview of responses The consultation attracted 50 responses, most of which were from organisations, with four individual responses from people with professional experience of the issues. Twenty-nine responses were from third sector organisations, 13 from local authorities and 4 from other public sector organisations, including the current Social Fund Commissioner. There were submissions from several third sector umbrella groups in the areas of poverty, advice and disability. There were no direct responses from black and minority ethnic organisations or from those working with the elderly. Responses included feedback from agency-run workshops and were largely based on direct service user and practitioner experience. The consultation process invited anyone who wished to respond to do so; as such, the responses are not based on a representative sample. The data was largely qualitative and the report highlights the nature of the responses and the themes that emerged across responses. No attempt has been made to identify an overall consensus. General views on the successor arrangements Respondents welcomed the devolution of the Social Fund as an opportunity for the Scottish Government to remedy the deficiencies and complexities of the existing system and to secure better integration with other aspects of welfare and public policy in Scotland. It was seen as an important step in tackling the way in which the current welfare system undermines other aspects of Scottish Government policy. However, further information and clarification on the level of funding to be available were widely requested to inform judgements about the best way to deliver the service.