Mr C applied for a crisis grant as he had no money for food and utilities. He explained that his most recent Universal Credit (UC) payment had been subject to deductions and sanctions, leaving him without sufficient money to last the month.
In their initial decision the council explained that the applicant had received four crisis grants in a 12 month period and that this application had not been assessed to have been made under exceptional circumstances. This decision was upheld at first tier review, where similarities to previous applications were noted.
Mr C approached SPSO for an independent review of the council’s decision. We considered the facts and circumstances of the case and spoke to Mr C for further information. We noted that significant deductions from UC had been a feature of two previous applications, and the most recent award was linked to a benefits sanction. While we recognised that Mr C was in a difficult situation, we agreed with the council that the application did not meet the eligibility criteria for an exceptional award. This was due to similarities with previous applications as set out in section 7.23 of the guidance. We recorded feedback relating to the council’s written communication and excessive evidence gathering. We noted that Mr C had been asked to provide bank statements at council offices, despite this information not forming part of their decision making. As per section 4.24 of the guidance, only proportionate evidence should be requested and this should only be asked for if essential.