[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.
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.