Set up to support the needs of benefits recipients in the UK, the Social Fund scheme helps make one-off and intermittent expenses more manageable. Whether facing unexpected costs or financial difficulties due to a planned change of circumstance, there is a range of loans, payments and grants available. Gov.uk has a wealth of informative guides to keep you bang up to date on your eligibility and how to apply.
How do Social Fund Schemes work?
Essentially, a Social Fund is a safety net designed to help individuals cope when facing financial difficulties. There is a range of schemes that fall under the Social Fund umbrella, some requiring you to have been receiving benefits for a minimum of six months.
- Budgeting Loans are interest-free loans intended to help spread the cost of certain one-off expenses over a longer period. Whether you’re tackling unforeseen home maintenance costs or travel expenses, a Budgeting Loan can help to keep things manageable and minimise anxiety. These loans can be repaid over the course of two years in weekly or fortnightly instalments, depending on how you receive your benefits. The gov.uk portal has plenty of info on eligibility and payment plans, so to find out more, head to their website.
- Sure Start Maternity Grants are available to individuals preparing for a new baby. Put in place to ease the expense of essential items, these grants are available to individuals receiving Universal Credit, Income Support, income-based Job seeker’s Allowance and/or other benefits. The grant is £500 in respect of each baby for whom an award is made. Grants can’t be awarded more than once for the same baby unless it’s an exceptional case.
- Many benefits recipients will be eligible for Funeral Payments. Intended to help cover the costs of respectful funerals within the UK, these payments are available to those receiving Income Support, Pension Credit and/or other benefits. Gov.uk has an in-depth guide that clarifies how much you are entitled to based on your current circumstances. Repayments have to be made from the estate of the deceased.
- Cold Weather Payments (CWP’s) are available for many individuals receiving income-based Job seeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Employment and Support and to anyone getting Pension Credit to help towards extra heating costs during very cold weather. When temperatures drop below freezing point over seven consecutive days, eligible applicants will automatically receive payment. No applications are needed for CWP’s and they have no effect on your existing benefits.
- If you or a loved one is aged 60 or over, Winter Fuel Payments are available to help cover costs during the icier months.
How to Apply
Each scheme under the Social Fund can be applied for via SF forms that you can download from gov.uk. Their website has comprehensive guides for each payment, grant and loan. However, if you are confused about your chosen application or would like to speak to someone in person, you can visit your local Jobcentre Plus or Pension Centre for further assistance.
0871 244 9700 is the Social Fund number UK. Operating Monday to Friday between 08:00 and 18:00, operators will be on hand to field any queries regarding your application.
Gov.uk utilises online applications and password protected personal accounts, so be sure to double check that you’re on a secure site before entering any details. Keep your passwords strong and close to your chest to optimise your privacy and never leave your browser open/unattended after entering your personal details.
Dissatisfied with their Service/your Results?
If you are unhappy with the results of your application, or the way in which your claim has been handled, you can download a GL24 form from gov.uk or pick one up in person from your local Jobcentre Plus. Most complaint procedures will require you to provide your name, address and National Insurance number, alongside finer details of your dispute (who you have spoken to, what has been said in telephone/written correspondences etc). Complaints are handled by an Independent Case Examiner to offer applicants an unbiased review of their dispute. You can also call the Social Fund number UK on 0871 244 9700.
Visit www.gov.uk today to find out more.