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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what criteria are used to prioritise who will receive payments from the Social Fund; how these criteria will be affected by implementation of the Welfare Reform Bill; and if he proposes to issue guidance on the distribution of the Social Fund under the new legislative framework.
The eligibility criteria for an award from each type of Social Fund Payment is set out in the Department for Work and Pensions' publication SB16—A guide to the Social Fund available on the departmental website:
The Welfare Reform Bill introduces universal credit. With the exception of pension credit, the qualifying benefits that are part of the eligibility criteria for most Social Fund payments will eventually be replaced by universal credit. The Social Security Advisory Committee has been commissioned to carry out an independent review of passported benefits and the links with universal credit, including Regulated Social Fund. This review is still taking place and the Committee has been asked to report by the end of January 2012. The Department will publish the final report alongside its response by the end of April.
Winter fuel payments are Regulated Social Fund payments. Eligibility is not linked to receipt of benefits as they are paid to most people over women's state pension age. There are no plans to change the current eligibility criteria for winter fuel payments.
Clause 70 of the Welfare Reform Bill will allow budgeting loans to be awarded for funeral and maternity expenses. This change will be implemented two months after Royal Assent and the guidance will be updated accordingly.
Only Community Care Grants have a local funding allocation and this will not be affected by the Welfare Reform Bill. Clause 69 of the Welfare Reform Bill ends discretionary Social Fund payments. Crisis loans and community care grants will come to an end in April 2013. They will be replaced by a combination of local provision and a national scheme of payments on account of benefit, neither of which will be part of the Social Fund. Budgeting Loans will be phased out as universal credit is introduced and will be replaced by budgeting advances within universal credit.
After April 2013 the remaining Social Fund Payments have a national funding allocation and therefore guidance on distribution of funding is not necessary.