Independent Review Service
 for the Social Fund
  Crisis Loans   

Frequently Asked   Questions  

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Crisis Loans
This information is intended to be a brief general guide only. It should help you understand about crisis loans, but should not be treated as a full statement of law.

Key features of the scheme are included, but not the full text of the law or the Secretary of State's directions or guidance.

All applications have precise legal tests applied to them. You can find the Secretary of State's directions and guidance in the Social Fund Guide which you can access via the DWP website
The following questions are answered on this page. You can quickly access them by pressing the appropriate question:

What are they?

Do I have to be getting a Social Security benefit before I can apply for a crisis loan?

How do I apply?

What happens next?

What can a crisis loan be paid for?

How do I qualify for a crisis loan?

If I have qualified for a crisis loan, will I get a payment?

Will I get the amount I have requested?

What about repaying the loan
What are they?
Crisis loans are interest free loans. As the name suggests, crisis loans are intended to meet urgent needs when no other help is available. They are to provide help in an emergency or a disaster. Back to top

Do I have to be getting a Social Security benefit before I can apply for a crisis loan?
No. Anyone who does not have enough money for urgent expenses can apply. You do not have to be getting a benefit, or to have claimed benefit.

If you have claimed a benefit and are waiting for a first payment, you may be able to get a crisis loan to tide you over if your benefit office cannot make an interim payment.

You do not have to wait for your benefit claim to be decided. You can apply for and receive a crisis loan while you are waiting to take part in a Work Foccused Interview, for example.
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How do I apply?
You can apply for a crisis loan in writing or by telephone. Almost all areas now have arrangements for telephone applications, but the law says they must still accept written applications, either on the appropriate form or in a letter. To download a form, use this link: DWP website. You can find your local office from the Jobcentre Plus website.

If you apply over the telephone, Jobcentre Plus will tell you their decision straight away. If they make an award, you will have to agree in writing how you will repay the loan before you can have a payment. You may need to go to the office to do this. If they do not make an award, they will confirm the verbal decision in writing.

If you apply in writing, use form SF401. You can get a form from your Jobcentre Plus office or download one from the DWP website. Include as much detail as possible about the crisis and how a payment will help prevent serious risk to your or your family's health and safety. Send the form to your local Jobcentre Plus office.

They will send you their decison in writing. They will send you the payment only after you have agreed how you will repay it.

If you are unhappy with the decisio, you can ask a Reviewing Officer in Jobcentre Plus to look at it again. Your application for review must be made in writing, even if you applied by telephone. If, following the Reviewing Officer's decision you are still unhappy, you can apply for an independent IRS review. Back to top

What happens next?
We will ask your local office to send us the paperwork the Inspector needs as soon as possible. Ideally, this should occur within 4 days. Please click here to be taken to the IRS Review page to find out 'What the review involves' Back to top

What can a crisis loan be paid for?
There are no specific prescribed needs for which a crisis loan should be paid. Generally applications are for:
  • a specific item or service; or,
  • immediate living expenses.
For example, you might need to replace an important item of furniture and household equipment urgently. Or, you might need money for living expenses urgently because you have lost your money or it has been stolen or because you have spent all your money.

There are some expenses that crisis loans cannot be paid for. For example you cannot get a crisis loan for;
  • medical items, spectacles or dental treatment;
  • most housing costs, like deposits to secure accommodation, mortgage payments or big repairs to your home (but you can get a payment for rent in advance if the landlord is not a local authority, to pay for board and lodgings, to meet intermittent costs like emptying septic tanks, or for minor repairs to your home);
  • buying or installing a telephone, or pay call charges;
  • running costs for a motor vehicle (such as repairs).
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How do I qualify for a crisis loan?
You do not need to be getting any benefits to receive a crisis loan. However, to be eligible for payment you must be aged 16 or over and without sufficient resources to meet your and or your family's immediate short term needs.

There are several elements to the qualifying condition, all of which have to be met for a payment to be made. These are that;
  • You must need to meet the expenses in an emergency, or because of a disaster, and
  • The situation means that there may be serious damage or a serious risk to your, or a member of your family's, health or safety, and
  • A crisis loan must be the only means of preventing that serious damage or serious risk.
"Emergency" is taken to mean "an unforeseen circumstance or pressing need, either of which requires immediate remedy or action". We give the term "disaster" its everyday meaning.

"Serious risk to health or safety" means more than mere discomfort or inconvenience. However, while the risk to health or safety has to be serious, this does not mean that medical intervention would be required. The possible consequences do not have to be immediate, provided they are foreseeable if the situation is not remedied.

While a crisis loan must be the only means of preventing the serious damage or serious risk to health or safety, alternatives ways of preventing the risk must be available soon enough and must be reasonable.

For example, you could still get a crisis loan if you have savings you cannot access immediately. Also, you would not be expected to sell possessions or do anything illegal. Back to top

If I have qualified for a crisis loan will I get a payment?
Providing your expenses satisfy all the qualification tests you will almost certainly receive some payment for them.

However, each Jobcentre Plus District office has an annual budget for loans that is fixed and cannot be exceeded. Back to top

Will I get the amount I have requested?
There are a number of things that might affect the amount you get.

You will not usually be awarded more than is necessary to safeguard your health or safety or that of your family.

There is a maximum amount that can be awarded for living expenses. The maximum amount is calculated taking account of the number of people in your family and the weekly Income Support personal allowances - regardless of whether you receive any benefits.

The maximum amount for an item is the lesser of the cost of repair or the reasonable cost of replacement. The Decision Maker must look at what amount is reasonable to meet your needs in a way that is suitable in your circumstances. Commissioner's Advice on amounts to award gives some more information about this.

You will not be awarded more than the amount the Decision Maker thinks you are likely to be able to repay. How much you can repay depends on your existing total Social Fund debt and any other commitments.

If you already owe money to the social fund, this might affect how much you can get. The most you (together with your partner, if you have one) can owe the social fund is £1,500. If you already owe £1,500 you will not be able to receive a crisis loan payment.

If you cannot have a crisis loan because your social fund debt is already £1,500, it is possible for a community care grant to be awarded, providing all the conditions for both a community care grant and a crisis loan are satisfied. Back to top

What about repaying the loan?
You will have to repay the crisis loan, and will be asked to agree to repayment terms before the payment is made. The repayment rate is usually set at 5%, 10% or 12% of your income, depending on what other commitments you may have. Your total Social Fund debt normally has to be repaid within 104 weeks.

If you are receiving benefit, your repayments will be deducted from your benefit.

There is no right to an Inspector's review about the rate of repayment. However, if you have difficulty making the repayments you agreed to, you may ask the Jobcentre Plus to consider rearranging the payments. Back to top
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