C had applied to the council's SWF team for a crisis grant in order to obtain food, gas and electricity. C explained that they had spent their benefits income on car repairs, leaving them with insufficient funds until their next benefits income.
The council explained that C's application, when assessed in light of their application history, could not be said to have been made due to exceptional circumstances. As such, they said that because the applicant had received the usual maximum of three awards in a rolling 12-month period, no further award could be made. C submitted a first tier review request, however, the council upheld their original decision not to make an award, again noting that the applicant had chosen to spend their income, and had made similar applications in the past, particularly in relation to an on-going benefits appeal.
We received the council's files and spoke with C for further information. While we agreed with the council that under normal circumstances this application would be excluded, we considered the additional difficulties C had encountered as part of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we noted that their choice to prioritise the car repair was linked to them having mobility difficulties and requiring the car to access their ‘support bubble’. They were also experiencing delays with the processing of a separate benefits appeal, and their utilities provider had removed the additional emergency credit that had been provided at the start of the pandemic. Taking into account the above factors combined, we were satisfied that on this occasion the application was eligible for an additional award of £146.74. We also provided feedback to the council regarding their decision letters and incorrect information relating to the total number of relevant previous applications.