§ Baroness Amos
My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I am pleased to announce that the Northern Ireland Discretionary Social Fund budget for 2004–05 will be 14WS £58.25 million: £12.64 million will be allocated to grants; £45.51 million to loans and £0.1 million will be held as a contingency reserve. The new allocations represent an increase of £1.65 million over the initial gross budget set at April 2004. This increase will he funded through higher loan recoveries, plus an increase in net Treasury funding of £0.94 million for this year. This £0.94 million is the second of three annual increases from a £8.2 million boost for the Discretionary Social Fund announced in the autumn 2002 Pre-Budget Report.
The Community Care Grant budget has been increased by £0.94 million to £12.64 million. This will provide more help to customers, in particular families with children and the disabled.
The loans budget has been increased to £45.51 million, an increase of £0.71 million on the initial 2003–04 loans budget. To improve the fairness of the scheme, budgets will be allocated in a way that will over time achieve greater consistency of outcome for customers wherever they live.
Details of the budget allocations, together with a note explaining the basis on which they have been made, have been placed in the House of Commons Library today.