C, a Money Advice Officer, applied for a community care grant on behalf of the applicant (A). A had experienced a deterioration in their living conditions as they were suffering from a number of physical and mental health issues. As a result, A’s property required a deep clean, and a number of their white goods and household items needed to be disposed of. C explained that A’s only income was a private pension, and they were unable to afford to replace the items that had been thrown away.
The council declined the application as they were not satisfied that A was receiving a low income. C requested a first tier review of the decision. However, the council declined their review request for the same reasons.
C asked SPSO for an independent review of the decision. We requested the council's case file and contacted C for further information. We noted that A was receiving a higher income than those claiming income-related benefits. However, C explained that A was suffering from alcohol misuse issues, and was spending a significant amount of their income on alcohol. We considered it would be detrimental to their health to stop drinking without adequate support, and that this expenditure was not a choice. We therefore assessed that it fell within the scope of an ‘exceptional outgoing’ in line with section 8.25 of the guidance. We were satisfied that the low income condition was met and instructed the council to award a cooker, a fridge freezer, a home starter pack and a double bedding set. Feedback was provided to the council that they did not follow the guidance when assessing low income. We also gave feedback on their written communications.