Ever wondered what happens to your application form once we receive it? Here’s Nell, one of our Applications Officers to explain more…

“I’ve worked at Family Fund for just over a year and a half, I really love working here and I know that even if I’m having a bad day, everything I do is helping families with children who have additional needs.

“Every day we get a large bag of application forms through the post. The first thing I do is open everything up and make sure any documents or letters are stapled to the forms, so nothing gets lost. Forms are organised by country and whether there’s a Family Fund number on them, as this means the family is already on our computer systems. Applications are then logged and searched to check they’ve been completed and are ready to be input onto our computer system.

Checking the application

“The application form has to be checked: Are all sections completed? Is it signed? Do we have all the documents we need like proof of benefits or residency information? If items have been requested for more than one child, do we have details for all the children?

“There are a few questions families need to answer to make sure Family Fund meet funding requirements which are often not ticked, including if the child is in foster care or the family are British or EU citizens.

“I try to resolve any issues by speaking to families over the phone but if that’s not possible I’ll post the application back with a letter explaining what is needed. Some applications can be declined at this stage. This might be because the child applied for is over the age of 18, the family have already been helped in the last 12 months, or the child is in the care of the local authority.

“Applications where children need to be assessed can take three to four months from the day we receive a complete form to the day we make a decision. If a family has been helped before, their application should take eight to ten weeks to process – apart from any that require an assessment – this includes applications where help is requested for a new child, or if the support the child receives has changed.

Applying online can speed up processing times as awards can be made automatically, but families applying for the first time must use a paper application form. Any applications that can’t be awarded by our system will be looked at by someone like me, an Applications Officer. For example, we may not be able to help with the item requested, so need to discuss an alternative grant. Or maybe we need more detail on how items relate to a child’s additional needs. If I need to discuss a grant request I’ll try and call the family first, then contact by email or letter.”

 

When you apply

“If I was to give advice to a family completing their first application, it would be to take your time. If there are parts you’re not sure about ask someone to help you, like your family support worker or a special needs co-ordinator at your child’s school. One really important thing is to make sure there’s a contact number on the form – if a family cannot be contacted by phone it can cause delays. Also, for all first time applications we need proof of benefits if you receive them, so please always send photocopies with your application.

“A part of my job that I find difficult is telling a family we can’t help with their request. There are certain things Family Fund cannot help with such as medical therapies or driving lessons. Although I’m able to offer an alternative grant, I know it can be a disappointment.

“My favourite moments are speaking with families, especially telling a family on their first application that we can help. I remember speaking to a woman who wanted help with some padding for a play area for her son. I explained how Family Fund can award specialist toys through Learning SPACE. She said it would change her son’s life and ease so much pressure on the family. When I call families to tell them their application has been successful lots of parents tell me I’ve made their day, or that they can’t wait to tell their child. Some people cry with happiness. I think parents are often nervous about applying and don’t know what to expect, it’s really rewarding to give people good news.

“Family Fund make awards every day, but Wednesdays are the busiest, and there will be piles of letters to families telling them they’ve been awarded a grant. For me it’s a really clear visual reminder of just how many children are helped, as it can be easy to hear the numbers without really thinking about what it means.“

Download a Family Fund application

Have a question about the progress of your application? Contact us