From April 1st the discretionary parts of the Social Fund will start to be closed down. This was a pot of money which provided repayable ‘crisis’ and ‘budgeting’ loans to those facing emergencies or awaiting benefit decisions. The fund was also used to provide small ‘community care’ grants – usually to people moving into independent housing for the first time, such as a young person leaving care. These were only available to buy the very basics such as a bed or oven, with prices set at the lowest cost possible for each item.
According to the legislation, some form of crisis and budgeting loan system will still be managed by the DWP. Much of the support however is being devolved to local authorities, many of whom have yet to release clear details on how they will manage the new schemes due to start in just over a fortnight. Many are thought to be introducing some form of smart card or voucher schemes.
A post on the PCS Union website (spotted by @UKJCP ) reveals that loans for those awaiting benefits are to be renamed Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs). These will be available through Jobcentres providing new claimants meet the following conditions:
“There is an underlying benefit entitlement or reasonable expectation that there is entitlement to benefit;
The claimant can afford to repay – other debt and loan repayments will be taken into account;
There is financial need – there is serious risk to the health and safety of a family member.”
Astonishingly, according to the PCS the “DWP does not intend to advertise the availability of STBAs to the public.”
Which means it’s down to claimants and supporters to make sure that everybody knows about the existence of this scheme. Spread the word and make sure everyone knows about these loans which will be more vital than ever.
UPDATE: Thanks to @anitabellows12 to who’s discovered this document buried on the DWP website which explains the new schemes but contains no information on how to apply: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/budgeting-short-term-advances-guidance-las.pdf
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