Government told social fund needs overhaul

Radical reform of the Social Fund is needed if the government is
to eradicate child poverty and social exclusion, according to a
report from the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux,
writes Sally Gillen.

‘Unfair and Underfunded’, which is based on 2,402 case reports
from 500 CAB around the country, says that the fund, which is
designed to help people on low incomes meet the cost of essential
items such as clothing, is failing to provide for society’s

Among the problems highlighted in the 43-page report are that
the fund’s budget is too small to meet its purposes and that
it is too complex and restrictive, as only people on specific
means-tested benefits are eligible, leaving many disabled or
unemployed people without help.

Its release comes a year-and-a-half after NACAB, which last year
dealt with 55,000 problems relating to the Social Fund, submitted
evidence to a social security select committee inquiry into the
fund, which had called for the scheme to be overhauled.

Recommendations included in the report are that the government
should increase the fund’s budget, and make loans more widely
available on the basis of income because too many resources are
used to refuse applications.

NACAB chief executive David Harker said: “The Social Fund is
crying out for reform. It should be a key tool in the
government’s drive to end child poverty and social exclusion,
yet it is failing dramatically to help those in greatest need.”

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