The Social Fund

Part of Orders of the Day — Schedule 3 – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 14th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate 9:15 pm, 14th March 1988

We are asking that applications for social fund loans or grants be made on a form. I reassure the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) that there is no intention that that should in any way stand as a barrier to applications being made. Of course applicants are able to seek the advice of the social fund officer, who can help to fill out the form, or of third party advice agencies.

It is desirable that we should have the form because, as the hon. Member for Livingston knows, we are moving away from a regulated system. Under a regulated system, if a piece of paper arrives, whether it be a letter or whatever, the adjudication officer may, in some instances, be able to judge that there is sufficient information on that piece of paper for him to know that it meets the regulation.

It is rather different when we are dealing with priorities and discretion. In that case, there is a whole range of information that the social fund officer will wish to have to ensure that he knows all there is to know about the application in order to have a full appreciation of what its priority should be. After all, the application form is then used as the basis for reviews. The applicant can have an interview with the social fund officer, and the form may he passed eventually to a social fund inspector for review. Therefore, it is appropriate that all the information should be in a form to ensure that the applicant has provided everything that could be relevant.