C, a representative for A, asked for a review of the council's decision on their application for a community care grant. A was moving tenancies following a notice to quit from their landlord As they were moving from a furnished to unfurnished property, they needed a number of items to set up their tenancy. They advised the council that A had autism in their application and that due to this, they needed to choose their own items. The council assessed that A's application met the required eligibility, and qualifying criteria and awarded a number of items which they deemed met the relevant priority. They stated in their decision letter that the items would be provided by their furnishing supplier. C asked the council to reconsider their decision to award goods, and requested that the council award the cash equivalent as A's complex needs meant they needed specific items. C had purchased some of the items and wanted the council to pay the cash equivalent to reimburse them. The council declined to make a cash award and C brought the review request to the SPSO.
We received the council's file and spoke with C who informed us of A's complex health issues, including severe sensory reactions. They noted that they felt they had been left with no option but to purchase the items as A needed them to move properties. We noted they had purchased the items before the council had completed the 15 day decision-making timescale, and we therefore assessed that C had met the need. We also did not consider C's request to be reimbursed as we considered C had purchased them before the council confirmed an award would be made, or that A was entitled to a cash award. We did not uphold the review request but provided feedback that the council should have considered a cash award at initial decision and made further enquiries.
A subsequently asked for a reconsideration of our decision. They provided further information about the detriment suffered and around the timeline and financial situation concerning their move. Overall we deemed that the council's initial decision did not give consideration to a cash award in line with 4.50 to 4.51 of the guidance. We deemed that they should have taken into account equality considerations as the applicant had provided them with information about their condition and how it affected them. We noted that the council also did not consider this point at first tier review and instead focused solely on the issue of reimbursement. Having reviewed the transcripts of web chats between C and the council, we determined that the communication around the likely timescales for the decision, and around the impact of purchasing the goods were potentially ambiguous. We changed our decision on the basis of new information and instructed the council to make a cash award of the goods awarded at initial decision.