Extra cash for Christmas bonus

Up to £57,000 in extra cash is to be put into the grant scheme to help those in need.

Trustees of the Shetland Charitable Trust agreed to add extra funds to the Financial Hardship Scheme (formally the Christmas grant scheme) after the budget was cut earlier this year from £361,800 to £100,000.

Members at yesterday’s meeting were told an estimated 520 grants of £300 each could be payable in 2014 – totalling £156,000.

A report from chief executive Ann Black said an additional £1,000 may be needed for external administration fees for carrying out financial hardship checks.

In February trustees agreed to reduce the budget to £100,000 – which would be used to help the most vulnerable people who were receiving the Christmas bonus.

At that meeting Dr Black said that if additional funds were needed for the grant scheme, then a report would come in front of trustees.

Trustees voted by seven to three to pare back the figure – despite impassioned pleas from a minority of trustees, led by Allison Duncan.

Trust vice-chairman Jonathan Wills moved to accept an option that would see the fund reduced and assistance aimed at younger people in need.

But Mr Duncan said by agreeing the motion, the trust was “attacking the most vulnerable in society”.
He said it was an “attack on our senior citizens” at a time when they were suffering fuel poverty and struggling with one of the poorest state pensions in the European Union.

But chairman Bobby Hunter said the reduction was “not about saving money, it was about putting it in the right place”.

Trustees heard how the grant had become difficult to administer – due to changes in the benefit system and external agencies. Mr Hunter said it was no longer equitable.

Trustee Drew Ratter backed Dr Wills’ motion and said it was sad to see the end of the scheme, which had been around since the early days of the trust, but the world “had changed massively since the scheme was first devised”.

According to papers at the meeting yesterday the first payments of the amended scheme are to be made at the end of October.

Mr Hunter said applications for money had been received and assessed and Dr Wills said he was happy to move the recommendation for extra funds – as this was in line with the trust’s policy in targeting money where it was most needed.

“I was on the other side at first, I’m now satisfied this is the right thing to do,” he said.
Trustee Betty Fullerton seconded Dr Wills.

Mr Hunter made a special thanks to social work staff and staff at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau who had carried out the assessments.

In May a 1,600-strong petition was handed to Mr Hunter by Lerwick pensioner Sandy McMillan, following fears over a cutback to the scheme.

Mr McMillan collected signatures from across the isles, gathering support
over three months after the decision was made.

His petition called on the trust to re-examine its decision and have the full bonus, which has been handed out since 1979, reinstated.

But Mr Hunter explained to Mr McMillan that people would be means-tested for the £300 grant.
He said the means-tested approach by CAB and social workers would mean money could be “targeted for those most in need”.

If the £100,000 was not enough, more money would be asked for, Mr Hunter said.

After speaking to Mr Hunter, Mr McMillan said the public could have been better informed by the charitable trust about the change.

He said he thought a means test was going to “put a lot of older people off coming forward” for the bonus.

But Mr Hunter said letters had been sent out to folk about the bonus and means testing, and the indication was folk wanted to be assessed.


Add Your Comment
  • Michael Garriock

    • September 11th, 2014 19:45

    Well, I’d like to say I welcome financial assistance being given to anyone in genuine need, but this all sounds like a somewhat incesteous little arrangement between SCT/CAB/Social Services to sign cheques for a “chosen few” based on some undefined/vague “criteria” of their own making. With no allowance made for folk who will not engage with the CAB/Social Services, even with the assistance of a barge pole, on account of previous negative experience(s), nor any accountability to the people of Shetland as to who and why has been chosen as “worthy” to benefit, in whose name the SCT are spending the money.

    Previously folk were aware anyone over retirement age or officially considered disabled were eligible to receive the payment, and the reasoning behind why this was so. I fully appreciate that due to lack of cooperation from the DWP this former arrangement is no longer tenable, but as a viable replacement, while this may well have a “good idea” buried in it someplace, the proposals outlined here to put it in to practice are worse than pitiful. The whole attitude projected from this report screams out a “trust us, we know best” attitude from SCT/CAB/Social Services, which at best is arrogantly distasteful, especially as not one SCT Trustee has a democratic mandate to hold the position they do, and act in the manner they do while in that position.

    While its quite admirable that the SCT wish to assist those most in need financially, it needs to be done openly and in consultation with the public, not some little deal hatched behind closed doors among a few in their “professional” capacity. It was bad enough, but understandable that under the former grant rules, to be a successful claimant you were effectively “forced” by the SCT to claim specific DWP benefits, whether you wanted to or not. Under this scheme, it would appear to be a successful claimant the SCT are now forcing you to become a “client” of the CAB and/or Social Services, with no clear indication why this course of action desirable or necessary, and which is something some folk would much rather beg on the street than consider.

  • Suzy Jolly

    • September 12th, 2014 14:43

    Where on the SCT website does it state that people can approach CAB?

  • Andrina Tulloch

    • October 29th, 2014 1:26

    My blind adult daughter’s application for her SCT Christmas Bonus 2014 has been rejected.

    Financial details provided and means tested under what criteria?

    Is this an example of authority without ability?

  • Andrina Tulloch

    • October 29th, 2014 9:00

    Just withdraw it!


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