Welsh citizens who encounter a life changing financial emergency have a safety net provided by the government. The Discretionary Assistance Fund can provide grants or vouchers to pay the costs on basic needs such as energy bill arrears or food, or there may be rent help for families on a low income. The aim is to assist residents so they can remain living independently in the community and their home, and it also helps those threatened with an emergency.
What is it?
The Discretionary Assistance Fund replaced the Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans, which were both run by the central government as well as the authorities in Wales. Applications and assessments for the welfare scheme are being done by The Family Fund as well as Northgate Public Services, and these groups are also partnering with the Wrexham County Borough Council.
The scheme is set to run for an initial two year term. Government analysts are following the results of the programme to determine whether to extend it beyond this initial stage. An extension of benefits is dependent on results being worth the cost to taxpayers.
In cases of extreme hardship, some individuals will be adversely affected to the point where they cannot recover from a temporary crisis. They may have no families or other aid to turn to. The Fund is used to control the damage and ensure that they can continue to live independently. This is generally to ensure that rent is paid in full for the month so families can remain in their local community, although other living costs such as utilities, clothing and food could also be included in an aid package. All assistance provided is at the discretion of the Welsh government and the terms of the scheme.
Payments from Discretionary Assistance Fund
Grants are paid to approved applicants by Northgate Public Services, as they run it under contract to the Welsh government. Funds from the Discretionary Assistance Fund can help over immediate living costs. The applicant needs to be on a low income, or vulnerable, such as older people or the disabled in Wales. These payments do not have to be repaid, and there are two types of support provided.
Individual Assistance Payments, or IAP, are paid to applicants who have experienced a crisis and urgently need aid in order to prevent eviction or other financial disaster. There may also be assistance for resettling, and this can include housing or rent deposit payments for those impacted by a natural disaster, such as a fire. Grants shall cover the amounts necessary to bridge the shortfall so that they can recover from hardship.
Emergency Assistance Payments (EAP) help Welsh citizens recover from Acts of God and other disasters. Fires, floods or other emergencies that cause financial strain may be offset by direct aid. The Discretionary payments can include vouchers for food or heating costs. There may also be grants for travel in an emergency or other expenses, and the government as well as Northgate Public Services and partners make decisions on what bills can be paid.
Who is eligible in Wales?
There are many eligibility criteria based on income, age, and more. Northgate will provide more information as part of the application and assessment process. However the Discretionary fund is meant to address one-off crisis situations.
For people applying for Individual Assistance Payments, these are limited to those already eligible for welfare benefits. The person does not actually have to be receiving these benefits already. Those who are leaving a care home or medical facility can receive assistance from the fund.
Emergency Assistance Payments could be accessed by those not receiving benefit payments. Evidence of a bona fide hardship, such as hunger or loss of heat during the winter, must be documented.
More information on applying for a grant
Call 0800 859 5924 to enquire about benefits and submitting an application. The Discretionary Assistance Fund is administered by Northgate Public Services, The Family Fund and Wrexham County Borough Council. This is actually done for all Welsh citizens at this location, including those living outside Wrexham.
An application must first be completed and submitted to the Discretionary Assistance Fund team in Wrexham. The team will judge the merits of the case and make a decision on whether to grant financial aid to the applicant. The client is always advised of the reason in cases where an application is denied.
For approvals, notification is made to the client which will provide instructions on how to proceed to complete the process. The notification can include referrals for other forms of aid, though the primary purpose is to announce to the client that emergency funding has been authorised. There may also be signposting to not-for profits in Wales that can provide advice on debts and other programmes to help end the dependency on welfare.
For Individual Assistance Payments, an authorising letter is sent to the client to announce the grant and the amount to be awarded. Sometimes a payment card is also included if it is the method of providing the approved funds to the client. The payment card could be from a retailer or fuel supplier if it pertains to necessary living costs or bills that are due outside of rent.
The process is slightly different in the case of awards issued from Emergency Assistance Payments. A unique reference number or barcode is sent to the mobile telephone of the applicant. This can be presented at a Pay Point outlet in Wales where it is redeemed for cash. This is the customary process for emergency rental aid.