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Social Fund (Annual Report 2012-13)

Volume 565: debated on Thursday 27 June 2013

The Secretary of State’s annual report on the social fund for 2012-13 will be published later today.

The report records that total gross expenditure in 2012-13, excluding winter fuel payments, was £924 million. This figure includes 197,000 non-repayable community care grants and more than 2.8 million interest-free loans awarded worth over £558 million. Also, cold weather payments worth over £146 million, funeral payments worth £43 million and Sure Start maternity grants worth £39 million were paid.

In addition, over 9 million households benefited from a winter fuel payment at an estimated cost of around £2.1 billion.

This has been an important year in the history of the social fund as preparations were made to abolish those parts—community care grants and crisis loans—that had not kept pace with wider welfare reforms. They were too complex for ordinary people to understand and were poorly targeted, failing those they were meant to help the most.

From 1 April 2013 new local provision began, developed by upper tier local authorities in England and under arrangements made by the Scottish and Welsh Governments. I would like to take this opportunity to thank local authorities and the Scottish and Welsh Governments for the way in which they have engaged with the Department to deliver this significant change and to ensure help is now being targeted at those most in need.

The “Social Fund White Paper Account 2012-13” will also be laid in Parliament today. This publication provides an audited account of the social fund’s receipts and payments and notes on key balances.

This year, following nine years of qualification, the Comptroller and Auditor General is satisfied that the social fund is making award decisions materially in accordance with Parliament’s intentions and has not qualified his opinion on the regularity of social fund awards. The National Audit Office has tested samples of awards during the year and estimated the value of most likely error to be just 0.68%. This is a significant achievement for the Department and is the culmination of focused work over a number of years.

The social fund commissioner’s report on the standard of social fund inspectors’ decisions was published on 24 June.

All three of these documents will be available later today at: