Mr C applied for a crisis grant for food, living expenses and travel. He had recently declared himself homeless to the council. However, he had opted to live at his mother’s on a temporary basis, paying her £20.00 per week, rather than stay in homeless accommodation. This was to ensure he was in accommodation that was suitable to enable his daughter to continue to spend two nights a week with him. He was in receipt of Universal Credit (UC) and had lost his wallet containing his full benefits income in cash.
The council initially refused to make an award on the basis of the applicant’s health and wellbeing not being at risk. The decision maker at first tier review changed the decision and awarded the applicant £87.72 for a four week period of crisis. It was explained that this amount was calculated using the 'non-householder' rate, based on Mr C not being responsible for the rent and utility costs at his mother’s house.
Mr C asked SPSO for an independent review based on the amount he was awarded. He stated that an additional £100.00 was required to cover food and travel costs to enable him to accommodate his daughter. When considering the amount awarded, we noted that travel expenses are excluded from the fund in these circumstances. We recognised that the applicant’s ex-partner received benefits for the child, but this had not been shared with the applicant. We also noted that he would not normally receive a benefit which included a child element. However, we acknowledged that he was responsible for food costs for two out of seven days each week, and that his childcare duties were entirely unsustainable based on the amount that had been awarded therefore the award did not meet the need (7.24). To ensure that he was not disadvantaged as a father with shared caring responsibilities we instructed the council to make an additional award of £60.50. Noting that the council had acknowledged the applicant’s family situation but had not considered an award beyond that for an individual, we recorded a finding of incorrect interpretation of information and provided feedback relating to the council’s written communication.