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The social fund

Disability Rights UK Factsheet F41

This factsheet is free for you to download. We are committed to providing free information on our website but we are a small charity and if you are able to make a donation to help cover costs of research and updating it would make a big difference.

What is the social fund?

The social fund is a government fund which makes payments to people in need.

The regulated social fund is for maternity costs, funeral costs and to help to cover the cost of winter fuel or severe cold weather. The discretionary social fund is being replaced.

1. The regulated social fund

These payments are non-discretionary and clients are legally entitled to them if they satisfy the eligibility conditions. There are no capital rules (although certain assets and payments can be taken into account when you claim funeral expenses payments) for these payments. They are:

  • cold weather payments
  • funeral expenses payments
  • sure start maternity grant
  • winter fuel payments

1.1 Cold weather payments

These are paid, during bouts of severe weather where the average of the actual or forecasted mean daily temperature at a specified weather station is at or below freezing for 7 days in a row.

You get them if one of the following applies:

  • you are on income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA), income support (IS) or income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) and one of the following applies:
  1. someone in your household is under age 5.
  2. you are getting either disability premium, disabled child premium, enhanced disability premium or pensioner premium in your IS/JSA.
  3. you are getting either severe disability premium, enhanced disability premium or pensioner premium in your income-related ESA.
  4. you are getting either the work related activity component or the support component in your income-related ESA.
  5. you are getting child tax credit which includes a disabled child element or severely disabled child element.
  •  You are on pension credit.
  • You are on universal credit (for more information on this see Factsheet F55 - universal credit) and you receive any of the following:
  1. an additional amount for a disabled child or qualifying young person
  2. either of the capability for work elements (or would receive one of these elements but for the fact that you getting the carer element). You cannot get a cold weather payment under this rule if you are in any employment or gainful self employment.

You cannot get cold weather payments if you are living in a care home.

Payment is automatic (currently £25.00 a week). 

For other help with heating see our Factsheet F53 - help with heating.

1.2 Funeral expenses payments

These are paid if you or your partner take responsibility for the costs of a funeral. To get them the following must apply:

  • You or your partner must be on a qualifying benefit.
  • the deceased was ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom when he or she died.
  • The funeral takes place in this country. You can also get funeral expenses payments if the funeral takes place in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and you satisfy certain rules. See the Disability Rights Handbook for more information on this.
  • Your relationship to the person who has died (the deceased) must be one of the following:
  1. He or she was your partner
  2. He or she was a child that you were responsible for and there is no "absent parent" (unless that parent is also on a qualifying benefit).
  3. He or she was a stillborn child
  4. He or she was a close relative and it is reasonable for you to accept responsibility for the cost of the funeral.
  5. He or she was a close friend and it is reasonable for you to accept responsibility for the cost of the funeral.

The term "ordinarily resident" is not defined. It is taken to mean the place where you normally live for the time being if there is a degree of continuity about your stay and it can be described as being settled.

What is a qualifying benefit?

You or your partner must be on one of these benefits:

  • child tax credit - if the amount of this is more than the family element
  • housing benefit
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • income support
  • pension credit
  • working tax credit (if this includes the disabled worker or severe disability element)
  • universal credit
What is a close relative?

A close relative is a parent, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, stepson, stepson-in-law, stepdaughter, stepdaughter-in-law or step-parent.

How much is the funeral expenses payment?

The amount you will receive should be the costs of providing a simple funeral. These include the costs of purchasing a new burial plot or the costs of cremation (including any medical fees. Other costs that can be paid are:

  • the cost of documentation required to release the deceased’s assets.
  • the reasonable costs of transport for the portion of journeys in excess of 50 miles, undertaken to transport the body within the UK to a funeral director’s premises or a place of rest
  • the costs to transport the coffin, bearers and mourners in two vehicles to the funeral.
  • the necessary costs of one return journey from your home for you or your partner to arrange or attend the funeral if you are responsible for the funeral costs.
  • up to £700 for other funeral expenses (or £120 if you have a pre-paid funeral plan which does not cover these expenses).

How to claim the funeral expenses payment

Claim on SF200 from your local Department for Work and Pensions or Jobcentre Plus within 3 months of the date of the funeral.

You can also call the Bereavement Service to find out if you can get help with funeral costs or with other benefits. If you are eligible for help the Service takes claims for Bereavement Benefit and Social Fund Funeral Payments over the telephone.

The Bereavement Service numbers are:

Phone: 0845 606 0265
Phone: 0845 606 0275 (Welsh)
Textphone: 0845 606 0285
Textphone: 0845 606 0295 (Welsh)

Cases where a funeral expenses payment cannot be paid

You cannot get a funeral expenses payment if:

  • The person who died had a partner at the time of his or her death.
  • There is a parent, son or daughter of the person who died unless he or she:
  1. is on a qualifying benefit.
  2. is under age 18.
  3. is aged 18 or 19 and qualifies for child benefit.
  4. is aged 18 or over and in full time education.
  5. is a qualifying young person for the purposes of universal credit (from 1 April 2013 - for more information see Factsheet F55 - universal credit)
  6. is estranged from the person who died.
  7. was on a qualifying benefit immediately before going into prison or hospital.
  8. is a fully maintained member of a religious order.
  9. is receiving support from National Asylum Support Service.
  10. is ordinarily resident outside the UK.
  • There is a close relative of the person who died who was in closer contact with the deceased than you were.
  • There is a close relative of the person who died who was in equally close contact as you who is not getting a qualifying benefit.

1.3 Sure start maternity grant

You can claim this if you or someone in your family has had a baby in the last three month or is expecting a child within the next 11 weeks. You can still claim it if the child is stillborn as long as the pregnancy has lasted 24 weeks.

You will only get a sure start maternity grant as long as there are no other children aged less than 16 years in the family. There are special ruies in the case of multiple births. See the Disability Rights Handbook for more information.

You can also claim sure start maternity grant if you :

  • are a parent who has responsibility for a child who is one year old or less at the date of claim but are not the partner of the child’s mother when the grant was claimed.
  • or your partner have been granted a qualifying order for a child who is one year old or less at the date of claim
  • or your partner have been appointed the guardian of a child who is one year old or less at the date of claim
  • or your partner have a child who is one year old or less at the date of claim who has been placed for adoption by an adoption agency
  • your partner have adopted a child who is one year old or less at the date of claim and that adoption is recognised under English and Welsh law and takes place outside the UK

You must be on either child tax credit (if the amount of this is more than the family element), income-related employment support allowance, income-based jobseeker's allowance, income support , pension credit, working tax credit (if this includes the disabled worker or severe disability element) or universal credit.

Payment is £500. 

Claim on form SF100 from your local Jobcentre Plus or antenatal clinic. The time limit for claiming is 3 months after the date of confinement or 3 months after the qualifying order, guardianship or adoption takes effect depending on which rule you satisfy.

Form SF100 must be signed by a health professional who confirms that you have received health and welfare advice about maternal and child health matters.

1.4 Winter fuel payments

These are paid to help with heating in your home if you are age 60 or over in the week beginning 19 September 2011. The amount paid depends on your household circumstances during the 'qualifying week'.

If you or your partner do not receive pension credit (PC) income-related employment support allowance or income-based JSA and :

  • you are between the qualifying age for pension credit and 79, you will get £200 if you are the only person in the household entitled to a payment, or £100 if you share a household with one or more other people entitled to a payment – for example a married couple, or two friends living together, will each receive £100.
  • you are aged 80 or over, you will get £300 if you are the only person in the household aged 80 or over, or £150 each if there are more people aged 80 or over entitled to a payment.

If you are receiving pension credit (PC), income-related employment support allowance or income-based JSA you will get £200 (or £300 if you or your partner, if you have one, are aged 80 or over) regardless of who else is in the household. If you are one of a couple and your partner receives PC, income-related employment support allowance, or income-based JSA, then he or she will receive the payment instead of you.

If you have been living in a care home for 13 weeks or more at the end of the qualifying week and are not getting income-related employment support allowance, income-based JSA or PC, you are entitled to £100 if you are between the qualifying age for pension credit and 79, or £150 if you are aged 80 or over.

There is no need to make a claim if you received a payment last year or you are on a state benefit (not including child benefit, housing benefit or council tax benefit). Otherwise you must have made a claim before 30 March 2012 by ringing the Winter Fuel payment helpline on 08459 151 515.

For other help with heating see our Factsheet F53 - help with heating.

2. The discretionary social fund

There have been changes to the Social Fund system since April 2013. The Disacretionary Social Fund has been abolished although parts of it remain for the time being.

From April 2013 community care grants and crisis loans for general living expenses (including rent in advance) were abolished and replaced by a new local welfare provision administered by local authorities in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. Each authority is free to make up its own scheme (they don't even have to call it local welfare provision) though it is not intended that any scheme will be the same as the old ones. For more information on these schemes see Factsheet F61 - local welfare provision.

Crisis loan alignment payments and other crisis loans paid due to issues with benefit have beeen replaced by a new national scheme of Short Term Benefit Advances or Universal Credit Advances. These are administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Budgeting loans will continue to be available if you have been on current benefits for six months but will be replaced by a new system of budgeting advances when you move onto or claim universal credit.

2.1 Budgeting loans and budgeting advances

These are interest free repayable loans. Payment is limited to  between £100 and £1500. This is reduced by any capital/savings in excess of £1000 or £2000 for those 61 and over.

To qualify for a Budgeting Loan you must have been on income support, income-related employment support allowance or income-based jobseeker's allowance or pension credit for 26 weeks. 

Apart from satisfying the rules for an award from the discretionary social fund you may still be refused, or offered less money, because of budgetary constraints. Your loan may also be refused on the grounds that you are unable to pay the loan back.

Wherever there is a refusal to pay, or less money is offered, you should always ask for the decision to be reviewed and get independent advice.

You can only claim for:

  • furniture/household equipment.
  • clothing/footwear.
  • rent in advance.
  • removal expenses to secure new accommodation.
  • improvement, maintenance and security of the home.
  • travelling expenses.
  • expenses connected with seeking or re-entering work.
  • hire purchase debts and other debts for any of the above items.
  • maternity items or items for a new baby.
  • meeting some of the costs of a relative’s funeral.

The amount of loan offered depends on the budget and your personal circumstances - the number of people in your household and the length of time you have been they have been on qualifying benefits.

You claim on form SF500 from your local Department for Work and Pensions or Jobcentre Plus or you can download the form from www.gov.uk/budgeting-loans.

I you are getting Universal Credit you can claim a Budgeting Advance. The rules for a Budgeting Advance are similar but there are differences:

  • Budgeting Loans scheme allow you take-out more than one loan. The Budgeting Advances scheme only allows you to claim one Budgeting Advance at a time, which must be repaid before you can claim another.
  • The maximum repayment period for your advance is 2 months, extendable to 18 months in exceptional circumstances. Budgeting Loans have a maximum 104 weeks recovery period.
  • You will normally need to have been claiming Universal Credit for at least six months (or have on migrated from another benefit onto Universal Credit and been claiming that benefit for six months).
  • You may not have to wait six months before applying for a Budgeting Advance if you are claiming for expenses which are necessary as a consequence of you finding or keeping a job.

You cannot get a Budgeting Advance  if your earnings are more than £2,600 in the last six months (£3,600 for couples).

The minimum Budgeting Advance award is £100. The maximum amount that may be awarded is:

  • £348 if you are single and have no dependent children
  • £464 if you have a partner and no dependent children
  • £812 if you are a lone parent or have a partner and a dependent child or children

3. Universal Credit Advances or Short Term Benefit Advances

You can get these payments if you are in financial need and are waiting for either a decision or a payment on your claim. You can also get an advance if you have a change of circumstances that increases the amount of your benefit. You cannot get a payment if you waiting for the result of an appeal on your benefit. Any advcance must be paid back.

You can apply for  a Short Term Benefit if you are claiming:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (including contributory JSA)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (including contributory ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • State Retirement Pension
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance,
  • Bereavement Allowance/benefits
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

If you are claiming Universal Credit you can apply for a Universal Credit Advance.

You can ask for an advance in your local Jobcentre.

You cannot appeal against a decision to refuse you an advance but you can ask for the decision to be looked at again by the decision maker.

4. Where can I get more help or information?

This factsheet is a basic overview of the social fund. You can find out more detailed information in our Disability Rights Handbook. This and all our other publications are available from our shop at https://crm.disabilityrightsuk.org/. You can also place orders by contacting Disability Rights UK.

You can get help and information at your local advice centre, such as a Citizens Advice Bureau. You can get more information about where to get personal advice from our Factsheet F15 - Getting advice. All our factsheets are free to download on our website at www.disabilityrightsuk.org.

Martin Inch
1 April 2014