The Social Fund
What is the Social Fund?
The Social Fund is a means tested fund, which can help with
certain one-off expenses. Access is restricted to recipients of
certain other means tested benefits - some parts are only available
if you are in receipt of Income Support/ Income Based JSA. There
are in fact two parts to the Social Fund, the regulated and the
discretionary Social Fund.
The regulated Social Fund
The regulated Social Fund works like any other benefit. Payments
are made as of right if you meet the conditions set down in the
rules. Decisions are subject to reviews and appeals in the normal
way, and if you make a valid claim you should be paid regardless of
the state of the budget.The Regulated Social Fund includes:
The discretionary Social Fund
This is the better known part of the Social Fund. Grants or
interest free loans are made at the discretion of the Social Fund
Officer. The discretionary Social Fund includes:
These payments are made from cash limited budgets and there is
no independent right of appeal. However there is a process of
internal review.The discretionary Social Fund is the best known
part of the Social Fund. It can provide help for one off items of
expenditure - e.g. cookers - or help out in an emergency - e.g.
house fire, lost money. It is different from all other parts of the
benefits system in the following key respects:
- It is discretionary - this means that an award is at the
discretion of the Social Fund Officer. S/he does have a legal
framework and some specific law called “directions”. Otherwise, any
award is based on the SFO’s judgement helped by local and national
guidance - none of which is binding. There are no hard and fast
conditions which say whether an award is made or not.
- It is cash limited - a certain amount is allocated to each
Social Fund office for the year. When that budget runs out, no more
awards can be made - although in exceptional circumstances more
money can be made available. With all other benefits the commitment
is open ended - any claim meeting the conditions is paid. But
remember, the cash limit is an annual one - for convenience Social
Fund sections plan out their budgets on a monthly basis, but an
overspend in one month is not grounds for refusal, whereas the
exhaustion of the annual budget unfortunately is.
- It is mostly made up of loans. Skilled advocacy is required to
enable someone to get a grant rather than a loan.
- There is no independent appeal - There is a 2 stage review
structure, with reviews by nationally based Social Fund inspectors,
but there is no right to appeal to an independent Tribunal.
Last Updated: 12.11.2007 at 15:59