Pensioner Vera takes on trust over Christmas grant scheme

A Lerwick pensioner who would theoretically qualify for the Christ­mas grant from Shetland Charitable Trust has found herself excluded be­cause the system is under review.

Vera Clark has this year started claiming her pension, and as she is in receipt of housing benefit and council tax benefit, assumed she would be in line for the £300 grant.

But a decision was taken in June to suspend the payment to new applicants until a review of the scheme is complete – and there is no indication when this will be. Mrs Clark has now made a complaint to the trust.

Mrs Clark said she wants other new applicants to be aware of the situation because the charitable trust will not be telling them as it will not know who they are.

Now she is upset that there will be no grant for any­one in the “new applicant” category.

Mrs Clark said she accepts the need for a review and agrees that public money should be spent wisely. And, she said, she could also accept that all payment of Christmas grant be suspended until this review is complete: “This would mean that all applicants or potential applicants were treated the same.”

As it is, she said: “There must be other people in the same circum­stances as myself. Anybody coming onto benefits in 2013 won’t qualify. It’s unfair and uncharitable.”

The suspension is contrary to her human rights, she believes, in which people should get fair and equal services from public authorities, and also to the stated aims of the charit­able trust. These are: “to provide public benefit to and improve the quality of life for the people of Shetland, especially in the areas of social care and welfare, arts, culture, sport and recreation, the environ­ment, natural history and heritage.” The benefit to social care and wel­fare is the part she deems particularly relevant.

Mrs Clark had a meeting with charitable trust chief executive Ann Black this week, but feels she is no further forward and is considering taking her complaint to charities’ regulator OSCR. She will also research the human rights implica­tions in a situation which she feels lacks dignity, fairness, equality and respect.

Shetland Charitable Trust has a budget of £432,000 to qualifying pensioner and disabled households for this year’s Christmas grant, which will see around 1,400 pay­ments of £300 being made.

Dr Black said in June that the money was “not necessarily target­ing the correct client group”.

Trustee Bobby Hunter said at that time: “There is no suggestion what­soever that we’re going to do away with this amount of money. It’s not a savings exercise. What we’re doing is evaluating the existing scheme and seeing if there’s a better way of doing it.”

The Christmas Grant has been in place in one form or another since the formation of the trust in the 1970s.


Add Your Comment
  • Ted Knight

    • October 19th, 2013 12:29

    This woman must think long and hard before she engages the Human Rights lawyers or their ilk (has she made plans to pick up the bill, should she lose…or must that be left to the public purse along with her current various benefits?).

    However, if she considers herself to be “vulnerable” “hungry” or without “adequate heating” for her home, might I suggest that she applies to the appropriate Social Service when her means (income from all sources, savings and investments and benefits in kind will be minutely scrutinised and a decision announced.

  • David Spence

    • October 19th, 2013 13:52

    lol Ted

    Some Lawyers would charge more than the Christmas bonus for less than a hours work, so I would hope that this lady is well aware of this?

    Our legal representative’s and this of charitable work do not exactly go hand-in-hand when it comes to costs lol

    I put our legal system in the same par as our lovely, friendly bankers when it comes to financial and commercial gain morals lol Make of that as you will lol


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