C asked for an independent review of the council’s decision. They had applied for a crisis grant as they were subject to the benefit cap and facing a reduced income.
The council declined the initial application on the basis that they considered that the situation was ongoing. C requested a first tier review, however, the council did not change their original decision.
We reviewed the council’s case file and spoke with C for further information. We noted that C had received eight awards in the previous 12 month period and that the normal maximum is three during that timeframe. We considered the potential impact of the pandemic and the advice that the Scottish Government has given to councils about the guidance, which concerns the assessment of exceptional circumstances being suspended. However, we agreed with the council’s assessment that an award should not be made due to the application history. The regulations allow councils to apply discretion in exceptional circumstances but we noted that the crisis was linked to the benefit cap. This was also the reason for three previous applications, two of which were during lockdown. As such, we did not consider that an additional award should be made. We provided feedback to the council, specifically that their original decision letter did not contain sufficient information and that the exclusion they used to decline the application was incorrect as it relates to expenditure and not income.