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Social Fund

Volume 464: debated on Monday 8 October 2007

16. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the operation of the social fund. (156119)

In 2006-07 Jobcentre Plus paid:

more than 270,000 Community Care Grants

nearly 1.3 million Budgeting Loans

over 1 million Crisis Loans

over 40,000 Funeral Payments

over 235,000 Sure Start Maternity Grants

all with a total value of £1 billion.

These payments helped around 2 million people to cope with one off expenses that otherwise they would not have been able to afford.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will consider the merits of establishing a separate credit bank social fund for low earners; and if he will make a statement. (154092)

As part of its financial inclusion strategy, the Government are committed to increasing the availability of affordable forms of credit for those who find it difficult to access mainstream lenders such as banks. Potential for reform of the Social Fund will be considered in this context.

The £42 million Growth Fund, which is a key element of our strategy, is doing much to increase the availability of affordable credit, having made in excess of 30,000 loans to financially excluded people in its first few months, with many thousands more excluded people to be helped as expansion of this sustainable service continues. In parallel with this we are working closely with the credit union movement and investing £1 million of the Growth Fund to test ways in which the recently announced Transaction Banking Service can be introduced to enable even greater service through credit unions for those who find it difficult to access mainstream financial services.

Furthermore, as announced in Financial Inclusion: the way forward, the Government has established a working group, involving the banking industry and the Financial Inclusion Taskforce, to consider ways in which the capacity and coverage of third sector lenders can be increased nationwide, through the support of the banking sector and the Government.