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Summary of the scheme

The LWSS exists to support Merton residents with short term severe financial difficulties. The scheme allows us to consider awarding grants. These grants do not have to be paid back

Not everyone will be awarded Local Welfare Support. The funding available to meet needs is very limited. Once the fund has been distributed no further funds will be available so the Council will have to exercise considerable discretion.

Applicants have to show that receiving this support is the only way that serious risk to the health or safety of them or their family can be avoided or the only way that they can remain or establish themselves in the community. It is expected that residents will have taken steps to make sure they have at least a small amount of funds to see them through a small emergency, however, we will consider applications from people experiencing unforeseen or major crises.

Our criteria are designed to help those who are at the highest risk of a serious health deterioration or threat to safety or welfare.

We are most likely to support residents who:

  • have a serious physical or mental health problem which they are receiving treatment for;
  • have a dependent child who lives with them and that child’s health would be at immediate risk;
  • are at risk of homelessness;
  • are on probation or receiving support relating to their offending history
  • have a learning disability;
  • have a physical or sensory impairment;
  • pension age residents with support needs;
  • are pregnant;
  • are fleeing domestic violence.

Objectives of the scheme

The Local Welfare Support scheme’s aims are to provide short term support by way of a grant to:

  • Maintain or improve independence (e.g. moving out of supported accommodation, residential care to live independently);
  • support residents to stay at home and prevent a move into residential care or hospital;
  • assist with re-settlement in Merton after a stay in temporary accommodation,
  • prevent serious risk to the health or safety of a person or their family.
  • help residents in returning to work.
  • help residents with unplanned expenditure for essential items, which could not have reasonably been anticipated.
  • help with certain expenses in emergency or disaster situations, at an individual’s home in the borough. For example flooding, gas explosion, chemical leak or fire.

The aim of the scheme also includes supporting residents in managing their budgets and debts through financial and budget management awareness. It also places expectations on applicants to take steps to prepare for emergency events and prevent further applications for support.

Who can get help

To be eligible you must satisfy all the following four criteria:

1. Age - Applicants must be aged 16 or over.

2. Residency - Applicants must:

  • have been resident in Merton for 3 months before applying, or
  • have been placed in housing by the London Borough of Merton and we have not discharged our statutory housing duty, or
  • be about to move to Merton after leaving residential care, hospital, prison or a youth offenders institution and can demonstrate a connection to the borough.

3. Income - Applicants must:

  • be in receipt of one of the benefits listed below:
    • Job Seekers’ Allowance (income or contribution based)
    • Income Support
    • Pension Credit (guarantee or savings)
    • Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independent Payment
    • Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance (income or contribution based)
    • Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support,
    • Working tax credit
    • Universal Credit
  • or be about to be in receipt of one of these benefits and they are about to leave residential care or hospital or prison or a youth offender institute in the next 3 weeks and have new accommodation arranged in the borough. They must also be able to demonstrate a connection to the borough of Merton or have a specific legal reason for moving into the borough.

4. Risk and reason - Applicants may request support because:

  • they do not have sufficient resources and this will cause serious risk to their own or their family’s health or safety, or
  • they require essential assistance to establish themselves or to remain in the community,
  • and they have no other alternative sources of support.

Note: we will expect applicants to provide proof their eligibility to apply. See Proof we need for more information.

Exclusions, limitations and conditions

Even if applicants are eligible to apply for Local Welfare Support, they may not be awarded the support. If they are eligible to apply under the criteria above they will not be awarded Local Welfare Support if they (or their partner):

  • have been placed in the borough by another Housing Authority under their statutory housing duty and that authority has not discharged that duty (e.g. placed in temporary accommodation in Merton).
  • have received the maximum number Local Welfare Support awards in the past 12 months.
  • have been convicted of benefit fraud in the last 12 months;
  • have savings or funds enough to cover the cost of the items they require help with;
  • are a person who is excluded from claiming Housing Benefit under Regulation 10 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (SI 213 para.10) and Council Tax Support under the Local Council Tax Support scheme (Persons from Abroad);
  • are requesting help with repairs or improvements to a property (we may however sign post to alternative sources of help);
  • have a tenancy agreement for fully furnished or equipped accommodation and they are applying for support for an essential item included in the inventory;
  • are eligible for help available from the DWP
  • have access to other sources of support

What Local Welfare Support might be awarded

Local Welfare Support may only be given in the following ways:

  • Signposting to other agencies which will be able to assist. For example support in financial or debt management by a third party organisation;
  • Emergency payments to pay for food, heating and hot water.
  • Awards to purchase essential household items (as defined by London Borough of Merton) that prevent risk to health and safety or allows a resident of Merton to stay in their home OR allows re-settlement into Merton.

Emergency payments

Food, heating and hot water are considered essential items to keep people safe and healthy. Grants may be awarded for food and gas and electricity paid for by key meter when an applicant has run out of money due to an unexpected event. For example, an interruption to their benefits or an unforeseen expense for something that would have caused them risk to health and safety or that they had no choice but to pay.


  • Payment of regular bills or higher than normal bills will not be considered as unexpected.
  • Re-payment of loans or debts will not usually be considered as essential spending.
  • Merton will ask for proof from a bona fide supplier of the unexpected expenditure these items.
  • We do not give emergency payments for loss or theft of money.
  • Where an unexpected bill has had expect the applicant to be paid we require proof liable for the payment of the invoice bill.
  • Max number of grant awards = 1 per year
  • Maximum amount = fixed amounts depending on circumstances but roughly equivalent to 60% of the DWP applicable amount for that claimant. Instalments may be awarded in some circumstances;
  • Grants will be paid by Post Office Payout barcodes.These are codes sent by text messages to a mobile phone. They can be cashed at any Post Office branch.

Awards of essential household items

Essential household items can be awarded where a person is re-settling in Merton following a stay in temporary accommodation, hostel, refuge, hospital, residential care home or custody.

Residents are expected to prepare for the eventual requirement to replace essential household items by saving for this. We will not replace items that have stopped working through normal wear and tear. However, we may also replace essential items following a disaster or unexpected event that could not have been anticipated.

  • Max number of awards = 1 per year
  • Maximum amount = up to £500 subject to individual requirements. Higher amounts may be considered in exceptional circumstances.
  • Merton LWSS team will purchase the items on the applicant’s behalf from a variety of sources. Some items may be reclaimed or recycled items.
  • Cash payments will not be available

Help from the Department for Work and Pensions

When deciding an application for Local Welfare Support, we will want to know whether the you or your household have any other possible sources of help to cover the costs of the crisis. If you do, then the amount of money you may get will be affected. You may either get a reduced amount, or may not get any at all. You will be asked, as part of the application, about such sources of money or support, for instance:

Funeral payments

You can apply for help to pay for a funeral, if it is reasonable for you or your partner to take responsibility for funeral costs and you are getting any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit where a disability or severe disability element is included in the award
  • Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element

See Funeral Payments (GOV.UK website)

Sure Start Maternity Grants

You can get £500 to help towards the costs of having a child and you have no other children in your family. To qualify you must also get one of these benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element
  • Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element

See Sure Start maternity grant (GOV.UK website)

Budgeting Loans

These are designed to help pay for essential things like rent, furniture, clothes or hire purchase debts. We will check if you are eligible to apply for one before you apply for LWSS and will need to see the outcome of the application before making a decision on a claim for LWSS.

The smallest Budgeting Loan amount you can borrow is £100 to pay for:

  • rent
  • furniture or household equipment
  • clothing or footwear
  • removal expenses when you move home
  • travelling expenses
  • things to help you look for or start work
  • improving, maintaining or securing your home
  • maternity or funeral expenses
  • repaying hire purchase or other debts you took out to pay for any of the above

To qualify you or partner must have been getting one of these benefits for at least 26 weeks:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit

See Budgeting Loans (GOV.UK website)

Short-term advances and hardship payments

If you are awaiting your first payment of a benefit you can get an advance if you do not have money for short term living expenses. For more details about a short term advance and hardship payments speak to your Jobcentre Plus office.

Cold weather payments and winter fuel payments are paid automatically to people on certain benefits.

Other sources of help

If you have the following available to you it is expected that you will approach these sources first:

  • insurance that may cover losses and immediate needs;
  • warranties to cover mechanical failure;
  • any spare earnings/other income;
  • cash in hand or other readily available funds in bank or building society accounts (we reserve the right to carry out a credit reference check);
  • family, friends and other organisations such as registered social landlords, who may be able to offer support.
  • Help which is likely to be available from other council funds, for example

Proof we usually need

We use Housing Benefit claims, Council Tax accounts. Electoral roll, Department for Work and Pensions records and other data sources held by the Council to check the information declared.

  • Bank balance - we need proof that an applicant has no money in their account. A mini statement with the current date is usually sufficient but there may be occasions where we need the latest bank statement.
  • Spending history - for higher value awards we will check spending history on bank statements to see if the applicant had opportunity to save for the items applied for.
  • Residency - We will use the Council's records and DWP records to check the applicant is resident and how long they have been resident for. Note: Where an applicant states that they are living at an address where Housing Benefit is being paid, we will expect them to be declared as a member of the household living there. If no record is held we will not be able to award LWSS and we will amend the Housing Benefit claim to include the applicant. This may affect Housing Benefit entitlement
  • Income - we will check the DWP and Council databases for this information but may need additional proof if we do not hold this.
  • Unexpected expenses- where someone has run out of money due to an unexpected bill or expense, we will need evidence of the bill. Note: We do not usually accept day to day bills as a reason for running out of money. Applicants are expected to have budgeted for these, for example gas or electricity bills. We will not usually accept repayments of an unofficial loan (for example: repaying a friend) as a reason for running out of money
  • Replacement of essential household items - if an item has been damaged or broken down we will need evidence of this. We will not consider a replacement if the original item is not present in the home. We will arrange for the item to be taken away as proof the item existed. This also ensures the disposal of the old items is done correctly. If you no longer have the broken item, we will not be able to replace it.
  • Awaiting a first wage payment - we will check with the DWP to ensure the applicant has informed them that they will be starting work. We will also need confirmation from the new employer of the first payment date.

Help from other organisations

If you are not eligible to get help under LWSS there may be other sources of support available. These are listed below:

Faith in Action

If you are homeless, FIA runs a twice-weekly drop-in centre for homeless people at the Salvation Army Citadel in Kingston Road, South Wimbledon every Wednesday and Friday.

Wimbledon Guild Small Grants

The Guild grants programme is designed to assist people who are in need and do not have access to other forms of help.

Family Holiday Association

All families must meet the following criteria for their application to be considered.

1. The family is on a low income
2. The family has not been on holiday for the past four years
3. The family has at least one child between three and 18 years of age
4. The family has been referred by a referral agent e.g. a health visitor, social worker, housing association, school, support worker, etc.

Frank Buttle Trust

Eligible items: Items requested must be essential and critical to the well-being of the child/young person. Cash grants provide necessities such as beds, bedding and essential items of furniture and household equipment.

Eligibility: To be eligible for The Frank Buttle Trust or BBC Children in Need grants, children and young people must be:

  • Aged 20 years or younger, and resident or ordinarily resident and living in the UK
  • Living in difficult circumstances: for example with illness, distress, abuse, neglect, disability, behavioural or psychological problems, severe poverty and deprivation
  • In financial need
  • In a situation where there is no statutory responsibility for meeting their needs.

Christian Care 

Will sometimes provide new or second hand items

Wimbledon Food Bank

Care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, CAB and police identify people in crisis and issue them with a food bank voucher

British Gas Energy Trust

The Trust awards grants to individuals and families to:

  • Clear domestic gas and energy debts and other household debts, e.g. rent arrears, council tax debts
  • Purchase essential household items, e.g. washing machines, cookers
  • Provide other forms of financial assistance, e.g. bankruptcy deposits, funeral expenses.

Turn 2 us 

Database of charities and grant awarding trusts

Elizabeth Finn Care

Gives money to help people who have less than £4,000 in savings and, lacking enough household income, manage a bare hand-to-mouth existence. By giving just that little bit more money beyond State Benefit provision, Aims to help people whose former careers have been interrupted or ended through circumstances beyond their control: physical or mental illness, redundancy, family breakdown, or those struggling on low income in retirement.

How to apply

To apply for a grant as part of the Local Welfare Support Scheme, please telephone 020 8274 4908 between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Residents who do not have access to a phone may use the phones available at the Civic Centre, Merton Libraries or Council Offices to phone the LWSS.

Residents who are unable to use a telephone (for example they have a hearing impairment) may ask staff at Merton Link at the Civic Centre, Merton Libraries or Council Offices to phone the LWSS. They can also ask a social worker; a case worker from Merton or another organisation or their own representative to call and make an application on their behalf.

Merton staff who are assisting clients can access an online application form on the intranet by searching for LWSS.

We do not give direct access to an application form because we want to directly assist clients and talk them through the issues they face and help them to avoid a crisis in the future. We can often identify other sources of help available and assist with applications for unclaimed benefits at the same time.

Applying on behalf of someone else

LWSS applications require a telephone interview. We understand that not all residents are able to take part in this, so we encourage local support organisations to assist clients with their application by giving us a call when they have identified a client who might be eligible for assistance. If you call on behalf of a client, it's preferable to have the client with you, in case we have any questions. Please ensure you have obtained your client’s consent to speak to us.


If you disagree with a decision we have made on your application, you can ask for us to look at it again. Please write to us at the contact details below. You must say why you disagree with our decision. If we have refused your application for a grant to help you pay for food, heating or hot water you must tell us why you are risk to your health and safety.

Contact us

Local Welfare Support Scheme
P.O Box 610

Phone: 020 8274 4908
Email: lwss@merton.gov.uk