MPs brand Community Care Grant ‘inefficient’

The Government’s Community Care Grant has been branded “inefficient and unfair” by a committee of MPs. The £141 million funding pot provides emergency money for benefit claimants with no other access to cash to buy vital domestic items such as beds.

However, a report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that £19 million was swallowed up each year by “unacceptably high” administrative costs, which accounted for 13% of the total cash available.

The report added that errors were too common and that official decision-making was “unsatisfactory” with more than half of appeals leading to decisions being overturned. Administrative error totalled 12% of funding distributed, at an estimated £17 million, the report continued.

The PAC also found that there had been a 20% rise in demand since 2007-8 due to the recession, and that applications outstripped the funds available each year. Only 32% of valid claims were granted in 2009-10, ranging from 26.3% in Essex to 37.1% in Glasgow, according to an internal assessment.

A lack of basic checks – claimants are not entitled to keep receipts – and no spot checks being carried out by the Department of Work and Pensions meant a higher risk of fraud and error, the report added.

The committee also found that there was an uneven distribution of funds across the country, with a low level of claims among pensioners and ethic minorities.