Independent Review Service
 for the Social Fund
  What's New   


The Journal and Digest of Decisions - Issue 40
The latest IRS Journal focuses on changes to the Crisis Loan Scheme, complemented by case examples included in the Digest of Decisions. To view the Journal, please go to the publications and leaflets page on this site.

Changes to Rules about Repeat Applications -4th July 2011

Changes To The IRS Review Leaflet June 2011

Important changes to Crisis Loans from 4th April 2011

New Eligibility Rules for Crisis Loans for food or fuel - December 2009

Changes to Rules about Repeat Applications for Living Expenses like Food and Fuel - April 2009

Changes to Interview Procedures - April 2009

Changes to Budgeting Loans - April 2009

Important changes to Crisis Loans from 4th April 2011
Crisis Loan applications made on or after 4th April 2011 are subject to significant changes to the Secretary of State's Directions. We are currently busy updating our training materials and will publish these in due course. The new Directions can be viewed in full on the DWP website. The main changes include:
  • Which expenses qualify? The qualifying Direction 3 is changed to allow Crisis Loans for items (e.g. household items and clothing) only when the application is made as a consequence of a disaster. Direction 3 still allows for some expenses to be awarded in an emergency, as well following a disaster. This includes requests for
  • rent-in-advance and 24hour lock change service(not a local authority property)
  • living expenses,
  • charges for board and lodging accommodation and residential charges for hostels,
  • travel expenses where the applicant is stranded away from home
  • the cost of repaying the emergency credit on a pre-payment meter for a past supply of fuel for heating, lighting or cooking in order for the supply of fuel to be restored.
  • How much can be paid? Direction 18 and Direction 20 limit the amounts that can be awarded for living expenses (e.g. money for food). Prior to 4th April 2011, the maximum was an amount equivalent to 75% of the relevant Income Support/Jobseeker's Allowance rate for the applicant and any partner, and the full applicable rate for any dependent children. (This is providing total Social Fund debt does not exceed £1500). From 4th April 2011 the applicant and partner rate reduced from 75% to 60%.
  • Who is eligible? Direction 14C limits who is eligible for a Crisis Loan for living expenses in certain circumstances, including requests where income has been lost, stolen, or spent. Starting from 4th April 2011, once the applicant has had 3 relevant awards in a 12 month period, they will generally not be eligible for further Crisis Loan assistance. Exceptions are made where the application is the consequence of a disaster, or in an emergency where it is not a consequence of an act or omission for which the applicant or his partner is responsible, and the applicant or his partner could not have taken reasonable steps to avoid. The 3 relevant awards do not include those paid when a person is awaiting their first wages or their benefit claim to be processed.
  • How to apply. Jobcentre Plus has a new national telephone number for crisis loan applications for living expenses. This is: 0800 032 7952. To apply for a crisis loan for items in the event of a disaster (or to apply for a grant), the revised form SF300 can be obtained from Jobcentre Plus. Crisis Loan applications for help with rent-in-advance may be made on form SF401R

Changes to Rules about Repeat Applications for Living Expenses like Food and Fuel
There have been important changes to Direction 7 affecting repeat applications for Crisis Loans. Effective from April 2009, this change only applies to repeat applications for Crisis Loans for living expenses, where the applicant has already had a Crisis Loan award for the same period. Generally speaking, a second award for the same period will now only be made if there has been an emergency or disaster that has arisen since the previous decision. Secondly, the crisis must not be:
  • a consequence of an act or omission for which the applicant or partner is responsible, and
  • The applicant or partner could not have taken reasonable steps to avoid.

New Eligibility Rules for Crisis Loans for food or fuel
The Social Fund (Applications and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2008 were amended on 14 December 2009 by the Social Fund (Applications and Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Regulations 2009. This gives the Secretary of state the Power to determine when an application for living expenses must be made in person.

This power is far reaching, but the Secretary of State's guidance indicates that an interview with a member of Jobcentre Plus staff will normally be required where an applicant has made 2 or more (non-alignment) living expenses applications in the past 12 months. During this interview they must provide such information in connection with the application at the interview as the Decision Maker may reasonably require. However, where appropriate, the Decision Maker may waive this requirement for an interview.

Changes to Interview Procedures
From April 2009 there have been changes to Direction 33 affecting when Jobcentre Plus Reviewing Officers must offer the applicant or their representative an interview before completing their review of the case:

Applications for Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans - In certain circumstances, an interview will still be offered before the review decision. For example, if there is information from a 3rd party the applicant is unaware of, or if there is difficulty accepting the applicant's own information. If there is no interview, the officer should still seek out any information that is necessary (this could be through written or telephone enquiries).

Applications for Budgeting Loans - Generally there will not be an interview, but the applicant will be contacted if they have disputed key facts.

Changes to Budgeting Loans
Since the Social Funds inception budgets have been managed on a local level. This remains the case with community care grants. However, from April 2009 there is one national loans budget for England, Scotland & Wales. Direction 41 requires that Decision Makers must implement the fixed baseline figures set for budgeting loans by the Secretary of State. This means that applicants can access the same rates irrespective of where they live.

There are two types of ESA. Income-related Employment and Support Allowance is a qualifying benefit for eligibility for community care grants and budgeting loans, along with Income Support, income-based Job Seekers Allowance and Pension Credit. Contributions based ESA is not a qualifying benefit for grants.

Changes to Rules about Repeat Applications
Direction 7 is the part of Social Fund law that generally prevents repeat applications from being considered for payment. This bar used to relate to repeat applications made within 28 days. From 4th July 2011 this changed to 12 months. This affects applications for items (like beds and cookers). The relevant part of Direction 7 now reads:

"A decision maker shall not determine any other crisis loan application, or a grant application, made within 12 months of a previous application by the same person for the same expenses for which a payment has already been awarded or refused unless there has been a relevant change of circumstances."

IRS Logo