Social Fund Changes to benefits 2013
Summary: This article looks at the different benefits under the umbrella Social Fund.
What is the social fund?
It is a Government scheme to help people with expenses that are difficult to meet on a low income. There are several different types of social fund benefits. For some, you can claim it as long as you meet the criteria, for others, payment is not guaranteed even if you are eligible to make a claim. With most you have to be receiving certain other benefits to qualify. The different types of social fund benefits are:
These can be used to help pay for essential items e.g. furniture, household equipment or clothing. The money has to be paid back but is interest-free. Budgeting loans will be replaced by Budgeting Advances for those claiming Universal Credit.
Cold weather payment
This is money to help with fuel costs during periods of very cold weather. There must be seven consecutive days when the average temperature is zero degrees Celsius or below. You will receive £25 for each period of cold weather between 1 November and 31 March each year. You do not have to spend it on fuel and it doesn't affect any other benefit you receive. The Winter Fuel Payment remains in place.
You will not automatically be eligible for a Funeral Payment just because you are paying for the funeral. The benefits office have to agree that it is reasonable for you to be responsible for the funeral and that there is no one else who should be paying for it. The payment does not usually need to be repaid, however if the person who died left money to you in their estate. This might have to be used to pay back the Funeral Payment.
Local Welfare Provision
This has replaced the Crisis Loan and Community Care Grant. It is administered by local authorities in England and the devolved governments in Wales (Discretionary Assistance Fund), Scotland (Scottish Welfare Fund) and N Ireland (to be decided).
Short term benefits advances (STBA's)
These are available to anyone who is receiving or made a claim for a benefit. You must be able to show that you are in financial need. This means that if you don't get a STBA there is a serious risk of damage to the health and/or safety of you and/or your family. E.g. not being able to pay gas/electricity may be a risk to your health.
As ever, those on low income and in debt should seek further help with options to manage debts effectively from a professional Debt Advisor.