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Social Fund

Volume 401: debated on Thursday 20 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he intends to (a) increase the Social Fund budget and ( b) make other changes to the Social Fund, to cover potential cashflow problems for benefit claimants as they move to automated credit transfer. [100794]

On 27 November we announced that from April 2003, £90 million will be added to the discretionary Social Fund over the three years to 2005–06. This extra investment will enhance the Fund's ability to help those on low incomes manage their finances.The size of the gross national Social Fund budget, set at 1 April each year, is dependent on forecasts of the level of Social Fund loan recovery in the coming year. We will announce the 2003/04 budget once we are able to finalise details based on this forecast.The move to Direct Payment will be phased in over a two year period from April 2003. No changes are being made to benefit payment frequencies so that anyone currently receiving their benefit weekly can continue to do so when they move to Direct Payment. We do not anticipate any increase in Social Fund crisis loan applications because of Direct Payment and therefore have no plans to make any changes to the Social Fund.