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Source: Scotland – Highland Council

Highland Council staff have been praised for processing 99% of Scottish Welfare Fund applications within the statutory timeframes.

In Highland the Scottish Government-led fund is administered by the Service Delivery Team with policy developed by the Benefits and Welfare Team, both of which sit within the Revenues & Business section.

Members at today’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee recognised the local authority’s outstanding performance for processing the Scottish Welfare Fund applications within the statutory timeframes (one working day for Crisis Grants and 15 working days for Community Care Grants).

Highland’s performance exceeds the Scottish average, with 99% of Community Care Grants processed within 15 working days, compared to 82% for Scotland. And 99% of Crisis Grants are also processed within the required one working day, compared to 95% in Scotland.

Councillor Graham MacKenzie, Chair of the Audit & Scrutiny Committee said “I am delighted to see such positive results being reported to the Audit & Scrutiny Committee.

“The performance achieved by the Scottish Welfare Fund Team is commendable especially at such a challenging time and when the Council is supporting an increasing number of individuals and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Their exceptional work was highlighted to Members at today’s Audit and Scrutiny meeting within the key findings and recommendations from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman’s (SPSO) Annual Report on the Scottish Welfare Fund Independent Service for 2019/20.

The Scottish Welfare Fund Scheme comprises two types of grants. Crisis Grants are provided where an individual is facing a disaster or emergency, and where there is an immediate threat to the health or safety of that individual or their family. Community Care Grants are provided where a qualifying individual needs help to establish or maintain a settled home and for those facing exceptional pressure.

These grants can be fulfilled through cash payments (or equivalent, e.g. vouchers), goods and services. In Highland, cash payments are made via SMS messages that can be redeemed at relevant outlets nationally and across Highland. Goods and services are procured via contracts with two local suppliers.

Cllr MacKenzie added: “In addition to providing value for money, several community benefits are being derived from these contracts. For example, both suppliers are creating local employment and other training opportunities; two Modern Apprenticeships are being provided including for looked after children; and one of the suppliers has been adopted by Dingwall Academy as a Business Partner.”

This Council continues to play a pivotal role in the development of the Scottish Welfare Fund. Officers within the Revenues and Customer Services team are proactive in helping shape SWF policy within Scotland.

This includes:

  • Submissions to consultations and attendance at working groups to inform national policies
  • As one of eight local authorities, officers participate in the Local Authority/SPSO sounding board which reports on casework received by the SPSO, gathers feedback, imparts information and identifies best practice.

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