C asked for an independent review of the council's decision. They had applied for a community care grant for a number of household items. They described their family situation in their application, which included that their child had serious health problems, and they had previously fled violence from family members. C also advised that their tenancy was in a very poor condition.
The council declined the application at both stages of the process on the basis that it did not meet any of the qualifying conditions.
We reviewed the council's case file and corresponded with C by email. They provided information about their situation, including their child’s health conditions and the impact this had on their spouse. C also advised us about their spouse’s immigration status and their benefits situation; and the state of the property. With C’s permission, we contacted C’s child’s GP who confirmed their condition and that they were under the care of the neurosurgical department. C provided photographic evidence in relation to the condition of the items that they currently had.
We assessed that their application for bedding and pillows were excluded as ongoing expenses as per Annex A of the Scottish Welfare Fund statutory guidance. We disagreed that the family were not facing exceptional pressure. We did not consider the information about fleeing violence to be timeous to the application, as they had received a new tenancy two years ago in resolution of that matter. However, when we considered the child’s health issues, the impact of this on C's spouse's health, and the pandemic delaying speech therapy for the child, we concluded that the family were under exceptional pressure and therefore met that qualifying criteria.
The application was assessed against medium priority and the following items were awarded: carpets for the living room, bedroom and hallway; three seater sofa; double bed and double mattress; single bed and single mattress and a vacuum cleaner. We assessed that the council should have made further enquiries with C prior to making their decision and that they should have carried out a low income assessment. We also provided feedback that their first tier written decision letter did not contain all the necessary information. Finally, we gave feedback that the timescales were missed at both stages of the process.