§ Mr. Woodward
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans the Government have to reform the Social Fund; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Pond
The Social Fund plays an important role in the Government's agenda for tackling poverty and social exclusion. It provides support to millions of people on low incomes, including some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We have announced a number of improvements to the Social Fund.
£90 million is being added to the Discretionary Social Fund budget over the three years to 2005–06, as announced in the Pre-Budget report 2002.
The Child Poverty Review, published on 12 July 2004, announced the Government's intention to abolish the Budgeting Loan 'double debt' rule and to reduce the current standard repayment rate of 15 per cent. of a customers benefit to 12 per cent. These changes will make Budgeting Loans more consistent and easier to understand and the Social Fund more effective in assisting those families most likely to experience over-indebtedness.
The Government are also looking at ways in which more affordable loans can be made available to people on low incomes, and are seeking to work in partnership with the private and voluntary sectors to find ways of delivering these, while ensuring that the loans enhance the ability of people to manage their finances responsibly.
We will continue to look at ways in which the Social Fund can be made more effective.