The Scottish Welfare Fund, for those who hail from other pairts, is the national scheme that replaced the Social Fund when England moved to local welfare assistance. The headline figures for the Fund look, at first, as if the process of budgeting has been almost ideal. 26% of the budget for 2016-17 was spent in the three months April-June. That could give the impression either that the system is being controlled with a rod of iron, or that it’s being run by Scotland’s most proficient clairvoyants.
Looking at the figures in more detail, however, the neat precision disappears. There are 32 local authorities, each administering both Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants on the basis of national guidance. The total budget is an amalgam of all of those elements. That makes for a grand total of 65 moving parts. And while there are some general trends, not all of those parts behave predictably. The numbers of Crisis Grant claims have fallen off, but there is still a wide variation in acceptance rates – 49% in West Lothian, 94% in East Renfrewshire. While the general picture for Community Care Grants is more stable, A few local authorities have made substantial adjustments in the rate at which they distribute CCGs. An underspend has been carried forward which smooths out some of the aggregate differences. I don’t see any reason to question the figures as they’re presented, but by the same token I am far from convinced that there is any underlying pattern or consistency which will guarantee conformity with central budget limits in time to come.