Community Care Grants

If you're already signed on to some form of income support, but you're faced with a short-term financial crisis, it might be possible for you to get a Community Care Grant. These are outright grants – not loans – so, if you qualify for one, you won't be expected to pay it back.

How you qualify

Very importantly, to apply for a Community Care Grant, you already need to be receiving an Employment and Support Allowance, a Jobseeker's Allowance, a Pension credit or Income Support – or be receiving some payment as a result of one of these. You might also qualify if you are moving out of care and if one of these benefits will apply to you within the next six weeks.

Then, you need to show that you have a specific need for the grant. For example, you would qualify if you're leaving residential or institutional care of some form, and will now be living independently; or if a local council or voluntary organisation is relocating you to a new home after an unsettling period of life. There's also an excellent chance of success if receiving the grant will allow you to stay at home when the alternative would be hospital or residential care.

Other categories specifically mentioned in the rules for grant allocation include people who are responsible for taking care of someone who is seriously ill or disabled, or someone who has been released from jail “on temporary licence” (meaning they have to follow a specific set of rules, often restricting their freedom of movement) – the Americans call it “parole”. You'll probably also get a grant if you need help with the expenses involved in visiting a seriously sick person, or to attending a relative's funeral.

You can also argue for any circumstance which is unusual, temporary, and impacts on your dignity. Allocations are often made for people seen to be experiencing 'exceptional pressure' – like family breakdown – particularly where a family member has a long-term illness.

What you can't get a grant for

Since there are several other forms of social support available, there are some areas of request that broadly won't be considered under this grant scheme. Schooling is one of these. You can't ask for a grant to pay for education or training, school meals, travelling costs to and from school; or for a school uniform, sports clothes, or sports equipment.

Requests which would cause clashes with other areas of government are also specifically ruled against. So if it's intended to pay your debt to another government department, including tax arrears, you won't succeed. You also can't get a grant to pay for fees for a court appearance, or other legal proceedings.

Council Tax, and most other housing costs, are also not covered by this grant. Similarly, if the grant request is for repairs to a house that falls under a local authority or housing association, or to pay for storage or removal of goods when your local authority is able to help, your application will be denied. Domestic help is also excluded.

Community Care Grants aren't designed to help you with long-term financial strategies. You'll need to take a different approach if you want to invest the money, or if it's for work-related expenses like fuel costs (except in very particular circumstances). You also can't it to pay for, or rent, a telephone - or use it to pay call charges.

You'll probably also be rejected if it's for expenses of less than £30, unless that amount is for travelling or daily living expenses. Food and groceries do not count as daily expenses unless you are caring for a prisoner or young offender on release “on temporary licence”. It's also very unusual to receive a grant if you've already asked for the same goods or services to be covered by a grant in the last 28 days.

Finally, any application for a Community Care Grant will almost certainly fail if your need applies to somewhere outside of the United Kingdom.

How much money you can get

Not only does the amount that individuals qualify for vary considerably depending on their needs; each applicant's circumstances are also considered. For example, if you and your partner are under 60 and you have over £500 in savings – or over £1000 if one of you is older than 60 – the amount granted to you may be reduced. Because a grant is not an income, though, it'll have no effect on any other benefits that you may qualify for.

In the interests of safety, convenience and efficiency; Community Care Grants are (like other benefits, allowances and pensions) paid directly into a bank account.

How the application process works

If you have a need for this kind of assistance, you should apply immediately.

To apply for a Community Care Grant, you need to fill out an SF300 form. You can download a PDF copy online or get a hard copy from a Jobcentre Plus. The form includes notes to help you fill it in correctly, as well as instructions on where and how to submit it. Remember that if you're currently in residential or institutional care, you can apply up to six weeks before you're due to leave, and be aware that this form isn't applicable to Northern Ireland.

The decision should be made fairly swiftly, and if you believe that the decision taken in response to your application was the incorrect one, you can have it reviewed. Your first step is to write to Jobcentre Plus and tell them why you believe the decision was flawed, and ask for it to be reviewed. If that process still doesn't satisfy you, you can ask for a Social Fund Inspector to review the application and the decision. This Independent Review Service is a fast, simple process which should be completed within 12 days.