The support we offer
Unlike many charities, we do NOT normally provide one-off or single grants for specific items of expenditure. Instead, our support is mostly in the form of a regular monthly grant to top up the incomes of the women we support as we believe this is the best way to provide empowering support in a dignified manner.
In 2023/24 our monthly grant is £120. This is reviewed regularly but not necessarily increased every year.
For some people, the Society's support may be open ended as long as they meet our criteria. For others, our support may be paid for a limited period to support the person over a particular period or with a particular issue. For examples of when we have offered both ongoing and time limited grants please see here.
Under the Society’s Royal Charter we can only support women who are:
- Aged 50 years or over;
- Have been living in Scotland for at least two years;
- Are single – in other words not (or no longer) legally married (or in a civil partnership) nor living with a partner. If you have been married (or in a civil partnership) in the past, your most recent spouse will either have died, or you must either be divorced or have a formal separation agreement. Please see here for more details;
- Have total savings and capital of £16,000 or less. This does not include the value of your home if you own it, but it does include money in your bank accounts AND the value of any other property or investments you own. Please see here for more details;
- Be living on a low income. The Society has a limit of £14,200 per annum (in 2023/24) as the maximum "Qualifying Income" a person can have to receive our support. Please see here for more details;
Please note, meeting these eligibility criteria does not by itself mean that the Society will provide you with support. Support from the Society is at the discretion of our Trustees and there is a limit to the number of women we can support. For this reason, we also ask applicants to show they:
- have a background of personal achievement in their life; self-reliance or perseverance in the face of adversity or health problems; consideration of others whether through voluntary or community work, or looking after family members who required care; and / or
- are looking for support to overcome a difficult period of change; or to make positive changes in their lives.
Please also note:
- The Society does not provide support if someone is living in a nursing or residential care home;
- The Society is likely to decline support to someone who has significant debts UNLESS there is evidence that the person is taking active steps to manage and/or reduce these.
What we mean by "single"
The Society can support women who have never been married, or who are divorced, widowed or who have a formal seperation agreement (provided they are not living with a new partner). But our Royal Charter does NOT let us support someone who is still legally married (or in a civil partnership) regardless of:
- how long they have been living apart from their spouse / partner; or
- the reasons why they are no longer living with their spouse / partner.
For example, this means we CANNOT currently support a woman who is still married to her husband even if she has had no contact with him for a long time, nor can we support a married woman who is fleeing domestic violence unless she has a formal separation agreement from her husband (which we know is very unlikely).
The Society recognises that this definition excludes a number of women who we would otherwise want to support, but the terms of our Royal Charter are clear. Changing a Royal Charter is currently a complicated, time consuming and expensive process that ultimately requires the King's consent. The Scottish Government has indicated they may change the law to simplify the process of amending Royal Charters, but for the time being the Society must operate within the terms of our Charter as it stands.
Formal separation agreement
The one exception to this criteria is if a married couple have a “formal separation agreement”. These are often drawn up by lawyers and it may be in your interests to get legal advice about such agreements to ensure your interests are protected. However, separation agreements do not have to involve lawyers and the Society tries to be flexible about what we will accept as a “formal separation agreement” but at minimum it should be:
- in writing;
- set out an agreement between the couple about the nature of their separation and ideally be clear about how they will divide their assets and who will be responsible for any liabilities or debts;
- be signed by BOTH members of the couple.
Please call us if you are unsure whether the Society will accept you as being single as we do not want people to go to the time and effort of applying for support if they are unlikely to qualify.
Calculating "income" and "capital"
In summary, the Society calculates “Qualifying Income” by
- Adding most forms of income EXCEPT the following which we normally ignore
- Between 30% to 50% of most disability benefits such as DLA, PIP, ADP or Attendance Allowance (and we can ignore up to 100% of these if you are disabled and have to pay significant amounts towards your own care and support)
- The first £1,500 of any salary, wages or self-employed income a person has per annum.
- Any interest or dividends you are paid from savings (instead we apply “tariff income”)
- Adding a “tariff income" if you have savings above £6,000. We treat you as having £100 annual income for each £500 of savings you have above £6,000.
- Adding an assumed income if you are over pension age and have a personal or works pension which you have not started to draw an income from
- Subtracting most net housing costs you have to pay. This will include:
- mortgage payments,
- most housing related service or factoring charges
- the net rent payable (after taking into account any Housing Benefit or Universal Credit payments you receive towards these)
- Subtracting the net council tax costs you have to pay (again after taking into account any discounts, exemptions or Council Tax Reduction you receive towards these).
We commonly find that people whose Pension Credit or ESA payments include the Severe Disability Premium have a Qualifying Income above the Society’s limits, so we are unable to support them UNLESS they have significant housing costs or high care costs.
In summary, the Society calculates “Qualifying Income” by
- Adding the amount you have in all your bank accounts. This will include:
- All current or savings accounts, ISAs, etc even if you have put that money aside for a particular purpose (such as paying for a funeral or supporting a family member)
- If you have a joint account with someone, we will normally assume half the balance in the account is yours (unless some other split is more appropriate)
Having said this, we know that sometimes people may temporarily seem to have a lot of savings but need to use them for a specific purpose and we will take that into account (for example, after selling your house you may have seem a lot of savings, but you may be using them to buy another property in the near future)
- Adding the value of any property that you own (but we do NOT include the value of your home if you are living in it). However, we know that some property can be hard to sell, for example croft land etc, so we will bear this in mind.
- Adding the value of any investments you may have. This will include:
- Stocks or shares that you may have.
- Investment bonds in your name (unless there is no way they can be cashed in)
- Premium Bonds
We DO NOT take into account the capital value of any pensions that you may have BUT these must be in a formal pension account (not in savings account which you think of as your pension). Instead, we take into account the income / funds you draw from your pensions. Note, if you are over pension age and have not started to draw an income from a pension, we will treat you as having tariff income from this.
For more details of how the Society assesses someone’s income and savings and calculates “Qualifying Income”, please see here.
Please call us if you are unsure whether the Society will accept that your savings are below our limit as we do not want people to go to the time and effort of applying for support if they are unlikely to qualify.
How we set our limits
The Qualifying Income limit is an important criterion for the Society, and it is often the issue which determines whether we will or will not support someone.
The Society reviews and updates our Qualifying Income limit annually in June (once the standard uprating of Pensions and Social Security Benefits are known). While the Society makes this decision independently, we take into account a wide range of information when doing so including:
- The annual UK median single pensioner income after housing costs statistics - Pensioners' Incomes Series statistics - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
- The most up to date Joseph Rowntree Foundation Minimum Income Standards - Minimum Income Calculator: Results.
- The Pension Credit
- Minimum rate for a single pensioner.
- Rate for single pensioner with SDP plus 50% of the standard rate of Attendance Allowance.
- The predicted CPI inflation rate for the coming September.
- The number of beneficiaries the Society has and can afford to support.