What is the Welfare Support Scheme?
This scheme is designed to help local residents who are in extreme financial difficulties if they cannot afford to pay for essential daily living needs, household items, or in some cases Council Tax. This is a non-cash scheme.
Who can apply?
You must be a resident, and registered at an address in Bath & North East Somerset. There is no guarantee that you will get help under this scheme. The funds are limited and will only be provided for emergency and short-term assistance. Priority applications will be based on your personal and financial situation, and will only be provided to applicants who have a low income.
How do I apply?
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By phone, by calling the Welfare Support Team on 01225 477 277. This service is normally available Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 4.30pm (and 4.00pm on Fridays). During busy periods / staff training an answerphone system will be in operation. Your call will be returned by the end of the next working day (at Christmas and during periods of staff leave or sickness it may take longer to respond).
Please note that staff at council offices cannot help with any applications under this scheme.
What kind of things could the Welfare Support Scheme help me with?
The scheme can cover the following things in certain situations:
1. Daily Living Needs-
To provide support for people who are in extreme financial difficulties, and are in need of daily living needs e.g. food. There are two levels of support available:
- A Basic Level of support: e.g. Food-Bank Voucher. These are available for the Food-Banks in Bath, the Somer Valley Food-Bank (this operates in the Midsomer Norton and Radstock areas) and Keynsham. Vouchers for the Bath Food-Banks can be obtained from the Bath One Stop Shop. Vouchers for the Somer Valley (Midsomer Norton / Radstock) Food-Banks can be obtained from the Council Connect Office at The Hollies in Midsomer Norton. Vouchers for the Keynsham Food-Banks can be obtained from the Keynsham One Stop Shop. Vouchers can only be issued after authorisation from the Welfare Support Team.
- A Higher Level of support: e.g. household items or food vouchers. This is restricted to applicants who fulfil at least one of the following criteria and have an emergency need:
- Have a child under the age of 5 years old living in their household or:
- Have recently claimed income based benefits and are awaiting their first payment.
- Have been released from prison, and are awaiting benefits.
The Welfare Support Team do not currently have the facility to pay for gas and electricity, however there is an on-going agreement in place - applicants can be referred to Citizens Advice for top-ups, which will be awarded if the applicant meets the Citizens Advice criteria.
2. Local Council Tax Support Scheme-
There may be instances where it will be appropriate to offer some assistance with your Council Tax payments. Any assistance offered will again be given as a short term measure. We may agree to pay a certain number of instalments where you can demonstrate financial hardship.
What is financial hardship?
It is important to know that the Council wants to help their customers, especially if they’re experiencing financial difficulties and have specific policies, programs and practices in place to do this. Depending on your circumstances we may be able to help in a variety of ways.
Financial hardship is when a customer is willing but unable to meet their contractual debt/living costs because of unexpected events or unforeseen changes that impact on their cash flow, for example:
Changes in employment status (such as losing a job or having hours reduced) for the main earner in the household.
Significant life events such as:-
- Significant relationship breakdown (i.e. where the main earner leaves the household)
- Death in the household
- A partner imprisoned
- Long term injury or illness resulting in loss of earnings
Financial hardship assistance is intended to bridge the time between when a customer’s circumstances change (and cannot meet their normal repayments) and the time when they can start to be able to manage their finances.
This will be short-term help and customers will be expected to seek support from services that can help them improve their situation.
Each request will be dealt on its own merits.
All requests will be considered, but as funding is limited, any amounts funded may not meet the total requested.
3. Assistance to purchase essential household items-
Welfare Support can offer assistance to purchase essential household items such as cookers, fridges and freezers ('white goods') where the applicant can demonstrate that they cannot afford to purchase these items themselves. These items may be to furnish a new home or to replace those existing that are damaged / broken. The Welfare Support Team normally work in conjunction with the Sofa Project to supply these items - the Sofa Project will then deliver and install as appropriate.
Welfare Support can also issue vouchers to applicants which they can use at the Genesis Trust / People charity to exchange for household items including tables, chairs, sofas and 'white goods'. The Genesis Trust can deliver the items but cannot install.
Welfare Support can also pay for applicants to have new carpets fitted, however it should be noted that this not normally for the entire property - applicants are asked to prioritise areas of need.
Welfare Support can consider purchasing bus tickets (via the Wheels for Work Scheme) for applicants for travel to the applicant's place of work (where they do not qualify for back to work travel expenses administered by the Jobcentre) or for interviews / training courses. Please note: these costs will only be met if they are assessed as reasonable.
5. Rent in advance-
Welfare Support will consider paying rent in advance in cases where an applicant moves into a new dwelling and they can demonstrate that they are unable to afford the rent in advance. Payment will be made directly to the landlord or letting agent. Payment will only be made where it has been assessed that the tenancy is suitable and affordable i.e. where the rent is at or below the applicable Local Housing Allowance rates.
6. Non Daily Living Needs-
Assistance will be provided on the basis of need. Applicants will be required to demonstrate their level of need, and must agree that Welfare Support is able to share their information with third parties for the purpose of granting any assistance. Examples of non-daily living needs we may consider include:
- Removal costs for house moves.
- Essential clothing for interviews (unless administered by the Jobcentre) and in extreme cases.
- Essential household items (as listed in Section 3)
How will payments be made?
It is a non-cash scheme. The level of support you may be given will depend on what you qualify for and your personal situation. For example, vouchers / bus tickets / direct payments.
Is there any other help I can get?
The Welfare Support Team will tell you about any other help or support that may be available when you apply. This could include advising you to contact other local organisations for help with debt management, reducing your energy bills or assistance finding work.
Other financial support available through the Council:
Housing Benefit can provide people on a low income with help towards paying rent.
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) can provide people already receiving Housing Benefit, or the housing costs element of Universal Credit, with extra help towards paying rent or rent arrears.
Council Tax Support can provide people on a low income with help towards paying Council Tax.
You can still apply for the following things from The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP):
- Budgeting Loans for essential things, if you have been claiming qualifying benefits for the past six months.
- Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs) will also be made available to provide an advance of future benefit payments, at the start of your benefit claim, under certain circumstances.
Visit GOV.UK for more information.
Please note that all Council staff have a duty to report suspected fraud in regards to benefit claims, Council Tax etc. to the Council's Investigations Team, who will investigate all allegations following standard Council Policy.
On 6 April 2016, a discretionary welfare support payment administered by a local authority in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland was added to the list of public funds, which migrants with NRPF are prohibited from claiming, and is set out at paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules:
A discretionary support payment made by a local authority under section 1 of the Localism Act 2011
A payment made from a welfare fund under the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015
A discretionary support payment made in accordance with any regulations made under article 135 of the Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015.
The Discretionary Assistance Fund for Wales ended on 31 March 2016 so no reference to this scheme has been added to the Immigration Rules.
Since April 2013, in England and Scotland, local authorities have been responsible for providing discretionary support to residents in need. This support has replaced community care grants and crisis loans previously administered by the DWP under the social fund. Northern Ireland is due to implement its scheme soon.
These schemes are all branded and administered differently by individual local authorities, with most providing assistance in vouchers or in kind rather than cash payments. Although local authorities should have eligibility criteria for the schemes that are tied to being in receipt of certain benefits (which a person with NRPF would not be entitled to), it is important that a person with NRPF does not inadvertently make an application for assistance. Names for the scheme vary and include: 'residents support service', 'discretionary support scheme', discretionary crisis scheme', 'local support payments', 'local welfare assistance' and 'community and crisis support'.