Local crisis and emergency housing grants
Many changes to benefits took place in April 2013 as a result of the government’s welfare reforms. One change is that government payments for an emergency or to help people stay out of care, move into the community or stay in the community have been abolished.
Crisis loans and community care grants, which were part of the social fund, have been abolished. They were managed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Instead, from April 2013, the government has given local councils some extra money. It is for the council to decide how to use this money.
At Bracknell Forest Council we are running two schemes, crisis grants and home emergency grant scheme. Awards are discretionary. This means that the council has the choice as to whether to make a payment and we consider each application carefully based on the circumstances of each individual.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will still deal with other parts of the social fund such as short term benefit advances, budgeting loans, alignment payments, sure start maternity grants, funeral payments, cold weather payments and winter fuel payments.
The key elements of the council scheme are:
- applications are made by seeing a member of staff, you will need to provide evidence to support your application and this could include proof of income and expenditure
- each applicant is required to complete a financial assessment
- awards are in goods, services or vouchers - cash is not paid
- there is no statutory right to appeal but we will review decisions
- applicants will be given details of other services that may provide financial support
- each applicant can only make one claim in a period of 12 months, unless there are extenuating circumstances
Eligibility criteria for crisis grant
To qualify for an award under the scheme you have to meet all of the following:
- not be excluded from receiving funding because of your immigration status and have the rights to reside in the UK
- be aged at least 16 years of age
- have lived in Bracknell Forest for the past 6 months or 3 out of the last 5 years
- not have money saved that could be used to meet your needs
- be without financial support which in turn could result in serious risk to your own or your family’s health and safety, or be without sufficient resources to meet the immediate short term need of those of your family
You do not have to be in receipt of state benefit to be eligible to make an application.
There is no out of hours emergency service other than the council's Emergency Duty Services (available 5pm to 9am weekdays, 24hrs on weekends and bank holidays) on telephone number 01344 786 543. Text: 07867 907 877 (for clients with hearing problems)
Eligibility criteria for home emergency grant
To qualify for a home emergency grant you have to meet the following:
- be aged at least 16 years of age
- applicants must have a right to reside in the UK and have lived in Bracknell Forest for the past 6 months or 3 out of the last 5 years or have a close family connection in the borough
- not be excluded from receiving funding because of your immigrations status and have the right to reside in the UK
- to be eligible for a home emergency grant applicants must be in receipt of one of the following benefits:
- income support
- income based jobseeker’s allowance
- income related employment and support allowance
- any type of pension credit or universal credit
If you have been in receipt of any of the above benefits for more that 26 weeks then you should normally apply for a budgeting loan from the Department of Work and Pensions.
How to apply
You will need to be seen by an officer at our Time Square offices in Market Street, Bracknell, RG12 1JD. The officer will make an immediate decision regarding your award.
You can apply Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm each day. There is no out of hours service.
If you cannot travel to Time Square, please contact the Housing Service on 01344 352010, who will arrange an appointment for an officer to visit you in your home.
Appeals must be made in writing 28 days from the decision made in relation to the home emergency grant to crisis grants. The appeal can be made in person or in writing.
The appeal will only be considered if it can be demonstrated that a relevant fact has not been taken into consideration when the first decision was made, or it is believed an error was made in calculation.
The decision of the appeal will be made within 10 working days.
There will be one final right of appeal to the Chief Officer: Housing which must be made within 10 working days of the first appeal decision. The further appeal should be on the basis of failure to take into account a relevant fact or an error in calculation.
There will be no further right of appeal.
Short Term Benefit Advance (STBA)
Short Term Benefit Advances (STBA) will replace interim payments and social fund crisis loan alignment payments for all benefits from April 2013.
STBA’s will be paid where there is a clear financial hardship and:
- where there is a change in circumstances resulting in an increase of benefit and the customer is waiting for the first payday or
- where there is a delay in a claim or payment and
- the claim is not pending the outcome of an appeal
There will be an expectation that the customer will be, or, is in payment of the relevant benefit and that they will be able to repay the STBA within 3 months, although a decision maker may extend this to 6 months under exceptional circumstances.
Although STBA’s will be available instead of interim payments and crisis loan alignment payments for all benefits, it is important to remember that they are not loans but payments on account of benefit, not additional to benefit.
For most people the maximum repayment will be 3 months, in special circumstances a 6 month period will be allowed.
Budgeting advances will replace social fund budgeting loans for eligible universal credit (UC) claimants from April 2013. For those who have not migrated over to universal credit the budgeting loans will continue.
You will be considered for a budgeting advance if you:
- are claiming UC or been in receipt of benefit for at least 6 months before migrating over to UC (This does not apply if the advance is required for the claimant to obtain or employment)
- are considered to be on a low income (regulations will specify maximum earning threshold for eligibility)
There will usually be a maximum recovery period of 12 months, extended to 18 months in exceptional circumstance.