Bronze COSLA Award for Highland Council Finance Service
Highland Council’s Revenues and Business Support section in the Finance Service has won a Bronze COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) award for their “Highland Helping Those in Need” project. COSLA Excellence Awards are held annually to reward and recognise projects and developments which establish excellent delivery of services to communities.The project is focussed on the Council’s administration of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Welfare Fund, a system of emergency support for vulnerable groups, and how this service improves the lives of those who really need it.
Customers apply to the Scottish Welfare fund for Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants. Crisis Grants provide help for customers who need help quickly because of an emergency or disaster. Community Care Grants are to help customers on a low income live independently in the community or to ease pressure on families.
During a time of crisis, it is important that financial support can be given to these customers as soon as possible. To apply for a crisis payment for instance, customers are able to telephone or apply online to be given a quick decision and could receive the means to collect their payment within minutes. This is achieved by sending a code by text message which can be presented at the customer’s local Paypoint in exchange for money.
This system not only ensures that payment is made quickly in what can be a very upsetting time in a person’s life, but also means that no matter where in the Highlands the customer lives, they will be able to receive their payment quickly. Nationally published figures showed the Highland Council’s payment rate to be much quicker than average, with Crisis Grants being paid to customers within an average of 0.4 days in Highland against a Scottish average of 4.5 days. This is an area that the Council has notably excelled in and is a major innovation.
Chairperson of the Highland Council Resources Committee, Cllr Maxine Smith, welcomed this news: “This award is excellent news and something to be really proud of. Congratulations to all the members of staff in Revenues and Business Support, who have provided such an excellent service to people in the Highlands who need it the most. The model of providing payment in such a quick and efficient method is so important in an area as large as Highland. I have seen the team in action, they are very understanding, approachable and caring. The service shows great innovation and the award is well deserved.”