The DWP have today released guidance on what’s left of the Social Fund which completely ignores the replacement for Crisis Loans – arguably one of the most vital sources of support for people in an emergency.
Crisis Loans were small sums of money which could be borrowed from the government to cover periods of hardship due to benefit delays or household emergencies. Often they were used to provide vital support when someone had been a victim of crime, or faced a flood, fire or other personal disaster.
The loans were rarely more than £60 and had an almost 100% repayment rate, meaning the cost to the tax payer was almost zero. Despite this, they were abolished completely on the 1st April this year in a petty and spiteful move by Iain Duncan Smith which is likely to leave the poorest dependent on both legal and illegal loan sharks.
Claimants in an emergency may now be eligible for some help from their local authority, although policies vary from place to place and most councils have adopted some form of voucher scheme . Budgeting Loans also still exist, but these are not generally for emergency purposes (see link at bottom of page)*.
What the DWP doesn’t want people to know however is that people left with no money due to delays in benefit payments can apply for a Short Term Benefit Advance.
Nowhere in the DWP’s latest guidance on the Social Fund are these loans even mentioned, despite being one of the most needed forms of support. It’s almost as if the DWP don’t want claimants to know that they exist. At the time of their introduction the PCS Union warned that the DWP had no intention of advertising Short Term Benefit advances to claimants.
Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs) cannot be claimed online and can only be accessed via Jobcentre staff. This can be done over the telephone, however a claim for benefits must have been completed before a request can be considered. In some cases Jobcentre Contact Centre staff have been told they can accept a telephone claim for benefits and then process an STBA application immediately afterwards. Claimants should receive a decision on this application the next working day.
If the DWP won’t advertise Short Term Benefit Advances then it’s down to us to make sure all claimants know about their existence. The Child Poverty Action Group have published the official guidance on Short Term Benefit Advances for Jobcentre staff, Contact Centre Workers and DWP Decisions Makers on their website. Please share this information widely.
*The DWP’s guidance on the Social Fund, which does include important information on how to apply for Budgeting Loans, can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-social-fund-technical-guidance/the-social-fund-technical-guidance
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid