Mr C, a welfare rights officer, applied for a crisis grant for food and living expenses on behalf of Mr A. Mr A, an EEA national, had been claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP). However, this claim was ended following a medical assessment. Mr C had been advised to make a claim for Universal Credit (UC). He had applied for and received a crisis grant of £87.78 to cover 14 days, while he waited for the UC claim to begin. The applicant had returned to the SWF for further assistance 18 days after that award.
The council assessed the applicant’s request as a first tier review of the original decision. They appeared to consider the applicant as not being eligible for a further award as he had not contacted the DWP to request a benefits advance.
Mr C applied to SPSO for an independent review. We considered the SWF guidance and assessed that the applicant’s request for additional help represented a change in circumstances, and should have been treated as a new application rather than a first tier review request (s9.14 of the guidance). We also noted that the applicant was not eligible for a benefits advance as his UC application had been refused due to his immigration status. We assessed that the applicant had entered a new period of crisis while awaiting the outcome of a mandatory reconsideration and instructed the council to award £87.78, a 14 day award. This is in line with what the guidance suggests for benefits issues of an unknown duration. We recorded a finding of “insufficient information / inquisitorial failure”, having noted that the council did not make reasonable attempts to contact the DWP and verify the applicant’s benefits situation. We also provided feedback on the council’s recording of the application and their written communication.