Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

Scottish Welfare Fund Independent Review

0800 014 7299

Date: 
August, 2019
Subject: 
Proportionate evidence gathering
Outcome: 
Not upheld

Ms C applied for a crisis grant for living expenses. In her application she advised that she had deductions from her benefit and had struggled to budget.
 
The council declined Ms C’s application on the basis that the application was made within 28 days of a previous award, and that there had not been a relevant change in her circumstances. Ms C submitted a first tier review request, and in this, advised that she had used part of her income to purchase a fridge freezer. The council asked her to provide evidence of this expenditure, however, she was unable to provide this. The council did not change their decision. 
 
We received the council’s file and noted that Ms C had received a benefit payment since her previous crisis grant award and subsequently spent this, entering a new period of crisis. We deemed this to be a relevant change in her circumstances since her previous award. However, we assessed that she did not meet the conditions for an award for a different reason. We noted that her bank statement showed an available balance of £30 on the date she applied, therefore we assessed she was not in a crisis situation in line with section 7.4 and 7.7 of the guidance. We did not change the council’s decision but provided feedback about the evidence requested. We noted that the applicant had been asked to provide identification (a birth certificate) and proof of address (a council tax bill). We did not deem this to be essential as she had received assistance from the fund previously, and residency could have been confirmed via council systems.  We highlighted that councils should only request essential evidence and it should be proportionate to the case.

Updated: August 19, 2019