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The social fund has two very different systems: The regulated social fund and the discretionary social fund.
Under the regulated social fund, your right to a maternity payment, funeral payment, cold weather payment, or winter fuel payment is clearly based on legal entitlement. If you pass certain qualifying conditions (see below) you must be given the payment.
Maternity payment (claim on form SF 100)
You will be entitled to this £500 payment for your first child or if your other children are now over 16, if you or your partner have either Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers, Employment Support Allowance Income Related, Pension Credit, Working Tax Credit that includes any disability element, Child Tax Credit worth more that the basic family amount, and you claim no earlier than 11 weeks before the birth, or no later than 3 months after the birth. You should also have been given advice from a health professional.
Funeral payment (claim on form SF 200)
You will be entitled to a funeral payment if you or your partner have any of the above benefits, or Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit, and you claim within 3 months of the death, and you are accepted as being responsible for the funeral by the benefits agency. Any funeral payment can be recovered from the estate of the deceased.
Cold weather payments
You will automatically be entitled to a cold weather payment of £25 for each week that the temperature in your area drops below zero for seven days in a row, if you or your partner have Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers or Employment Support Allowance Income Related, and you are responsible for a child under 5, or have any disability premium included in your benefit, or Pension Credit.
Winter fuel payments
You will receive this automatically in with your qualifying benefit or payment by giro during November or December, maximum £400 per pensioner household.
Under the discretionary social fund all payments are at the discretion of the social fund decision maker who makes the decision. They can make interest free loans which would normally be repayable from your benefit weekly, or grants that do not have to be repaid.
There are three types of discretionary payments available:
Community Care Grants (claim on form SF 300)
These are intended to assist people on Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers, Employment Support Allowance Income Related†or Pension Credit and facing difficulties arising from special circumstances. In particular grants are intended to help people leaving institutional or residential care, or people who need help to stay in their own home, or people who have had an unsettled way of life, or are facing exceptional pressures.
Budgeting loans: (claim on form SF500)
These are interest free, repayable loans, and are intended to help people on Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers, Employment Support Allowance Income Related†or Pension Credit for over 26 weeks, to meet the cost of intermittent expenses allowed for in the scheme, for which it would be difficult to budget for. This allows you to spread the cost over a period of time.
Crisis loans: (claim on form SF400 / SF401)
These are interest free, repayable loans. And are intended for people who are unable to meet there immediate short term needs either in an emergency or as a result of a disaster. A crisis loan will only be awarded where it is considered to be the only means available of preventing serious damage or serious risk to the health or safety of you or your family. You do not have to be on any benefit to apply, applications are now limited to 3 in any previous year.
The discretionary social fund is budget limited, each benefit agency district office is allocated a set budget for the year.
Applications should be made using the above forms, an application is no longer treated as an application to the social fund as a whole. If you apply for a budgeting loan it will no longer be considered as an alternative claim for a crisis loan or community care grant as used to happen.
If you have been awarded or refused a community care grant or crisis loan, you are unable to reapply for the same item or service within†4 weeks. Unless there has been a change in circumstances. This would not apply to applications by different partners. You could reapply within 4 weeks if you withdrew your original application before any decision was given, or you did not respond to any loan offer. Only repeat applications for the same item or service are not allowed, an application for bedding would be different than a repeat application for sheets. This 4 weeks between repeat applications does not apply to budgeting loans.
Any payment from the social fund would normally be payable by bank transfer, direct into your P.O account or a giro direct to you.
If you are turned down for any payment from the regulated social fund can appeal within 28 days to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
If you are not satisfied with a decision about a payment from the discretionary social fund, you have no right to appeal, but you do have the right to write and ask for an internal review within 28 days of the decision. You could be asked to attend your local benefits agency for an interview. If you are still not happy with this review decision you have the right to request within 28 days a further review by the Social Fund Inspectorate based in Birmingham.