C asked the SPSO to review a crisis grant application. They had applied for assistance because they had no access to their benefits income after a relationship breakdown involving domestic abuse.
The council declined the initial application because they assessed that C did not meet the criteria for an exceptional award based on application history. They said that this was because C had applied previously due to having their benefits income paid into different accounts, and so the circumstances were not exceptional. C requested a first-tier review of the decision, but the council did not change their original decision.
We reviewed the council’s case file and emailed C for further information about their situation. We also contacted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to confirm the accounts into which C's benefits were paid.
We were satisfied that some of C's income was paid into the person's account that they named as their ex-partner, but we were not satisfied that their largest benefit income payment (Universal Credit) was paid into that account. We also noted that some of the information C had provided appeared unlikely and conflicted with information provided by the DWP. We gave C an opportunity to respond to the conflicting evidence. Ultimately we were not satisfied that all of the circumstances presented during the application process were verifiable. We did not change the council’s decision but provided feedback that C's situation was not identical to their previous situation. This involved domestic abuse leading to the potential loss of access to funds, which could have been exceptional in nature. We also gave feedback that the initial decision letter contained insufficient information and the first-tier review was not handled within timescales.