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Social Fund

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 10 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 6 December 2007, Official Report, columns 1508-09W, on the social fund, what definition his Department uses of serious risk to health and safety in relation to crisis loan applications. (173811)

[holding answer 13 December 2007]: There is no specific definition.

However the social fund Directions state that:

“... a social fund payment may be awarded to assist an applicant to meet expenses (except those excluded by these directions)

(a) in an emergency, or as a consequence of a disaster, provided that the provision of such assistance is the only means by which serious damage or serious risk to the health or safety of that person, or to a member of his family, may be prevented;”

Therefore the applicant has to meet three requirements; the need must have arisen as a result of a disaster or emergency; it must constitute a serious risk to the health and well being of the applicant or a member of their family and there must be no other means of meeting the need.

The decision maker will consider carefully the circumstances of the applicant and should interpret the phrase, “serious damage or serious risk to the health or safety of that person” and “in an emergency, or as a consequence of a disaster,” in a broad common sense manner that includes consideration of both physical and mental health.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress is being made on achieving a single independent review of social fund claims. (174668)

There are no plans currently to change the discretionary social fund review process. This consists of an internal review and, for those still dissatisfied with the outcome of their application, an independent review by a social fund inspector at the Independent Review Service.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of calls were connected to the social fund in the most recent period for which figures are available. (174671)