Advice bureaux back MPs’ demand for action to reform social fund

Radical reform of the social fund is needed if the government is to
eradicate child poverty and social exclusion, according to a report
released this week by the National Association of Citizens Advice

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

Problems highlighted in the report include the inadequate size and
restrictive nature of the fund’s budget, as only people on specific
means-tested benefits are eligible, leaving many disabled or
unemployed people without help. Last year, Nacab dealt with 55,000
problems relating to the fund.

The report recommends an increase in the fund’s budget and loans to
be more widely available by using money currently spent on
administration. For every £5 the scheme pays out, £2 is
spent on administering the fund.

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.”

He added that the poorest people were being deprived of the basic
necessities for a decent standard of living and he hoped the
“compelling evidence of failure” set out in this report would
persuade the government of the need to reform the social fund.

Nacab submitted evidence last year to a House of Commons social
security select committee inquiry. The committee later concluded
that the fund needed to be overhauled (news, page 8, 12 April,

Director of the Child Poverty Action Group Martin Barnes said: “The
government has been twiddling its thumbs on the social fund for too
long. Eighteen months have passed since MPs called for urgent
reform and an urgent injection of cash.”

– Unfair and Underfunded from

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