C requested an independent review of the council's decision on their crisis grant application. They applied for money for food, gas and electricity as they had recently given birth to a baby who was in a neonatal care unit for a period of eight days. As a result of this, C and their partner had to travel by taxi to the hospital as they were advised due to the pandemic not to use public transport. They also had to purchase food at the hospital, which was more expensive than supermarkets.
The council declined the application on the basis that C had already received four awards in the last 12-month rolling period. They noted that there were no exceptional circumstances that would allow for an award to be made.
We reviewed the council’s file and spoke with C for further information. When reviewing the application history we noted none of C’s previous awards or applications to the fund were due to costs as a result of a hospital admission. Overall, we assessed that the COVID-19 pandemic had contributed to C's crisis situation and that the circumstances were exceptional. We therefore changed the council's decision and made a fifth award. We provided feedback that the council had not fully considered the circumstances of the application, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlighted that they did not issue an initial decision letter, and their first tier decision letter contained insufficient information for C to understand the decision.