HC Deb 09 January 1996 vol 269 cc169-70W
Ms Lynne

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proportion of applicants to the social fund for community grants or crisis loans are refused. [6935]

Mr. Andrew Mitchell

Information on the number of awards and refusals from the discretionary social fund for 1994–95 is contained in the latest Secretary of State's annual report on the social fund, a copy of which is in the Library.

Community care grants may be awarded in a wide range of defined circumstances. These include assisting people who are leaving residential or institutional care to re-establish themselves in the community; helping people stay in the community rather than enter care; easing exceptional pressure on families; helping with certain travelling costs; and assisting people who are caring for prisoners who are released on temporary licence. The majority of refusals were because the applicant did not satisfy the basic eligibility criteria. However, 54 per cent. of those refused a community care grant in the current year were awarded a repayable budgeting loan.

The information requested for the year to date (April to November) is in the table:

Year: April-November 1995 Applications received (thousands) Refusals (thousands) Refusals as a percentage of applications
Community care grants 853 655 77
Crisis loans 749 160 21

1. The number of refusals overturned on review are not included.

2. Percentages obtained from rounded figures.

Ms Lynne

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the social fund in helping people on benefit or low incomes to meet intermittent or unexpected expenses. [6936]

Mr. Mitchell

The Government believe that the social fund continues to work effectively, ensuring that available resources are targeted on those most in need of help with important expenses which are difficult to budget for. The discretionary fund provides particularly good value for money by recycling loan recoveries to help more people. Not every eligible person can expect to get a payment for every need they apply for, but the budgetary framework of the discretionary fund ensures that awards are made to help people with the highest priority needs. Social fund officers consider the individual circumstances of each application to the discretionary fund. Applicants who are dissatisfied with the decision in their case have the opportunity to seek a review. We will continue to keep the operation of the fund under close scrutiny, particularly in so far as it affects the help we are able to provide to some of our most vulnerable citizens.