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Welfare Reform Act (Northern Ireland) 2007

Social fund

Section 50: Matters to which regard must be had in awarding budgeting loans

Section 136 of the Contributions and Benefits Act provides for payments to be made out of the social fund in the form of budgeting loans, crisis loans and community care grants to give help to people on low incomes.

“Appropriate officers” determine applications for social fund payments in accordance with the provisions in primary legislation, principally section 136 of the Contributions and Benefits Act, and directions and guidance issued by the Department. Section 136(1) sets out factors relevant to decisions on crisis loans and community care grants and section 136(1A) does the same for budgeting loans. The system of decision-making in respect of budgeting loans has been simplified with the consequence that some of the provisions in section 136(1A) are unnecessary. Section 50 removes them. The possibility that a third party may meet the need under consideration will no longer be one of the factors relevant to decisions on budgeting loans (see section 136(1)(c) and (1A)(b)). The reference in section 136(1A) to budgeting loan criteria other than the applicant’s personal circumstances which may be specified by the Department in directions are removed, as the directions no longer contain such criteria.

Section 51: Allocations from the social fund

Under section 147 of the Administration Act the Department allocates money out of which social fund payments may be made under section 134(1)(b) of the Contributions and Benefits Act.

The money available is limited. There is one budget for loans and one for grants. The budgets are currently allocated to offices for the purpose of making payments of loans and grants to the customers in their geographical area. The intention is that there should be flexibility as to how allocations are made and, in particular, it should be clear that it is open to the Department to make a single allocation from which loans may be made. The amendments to section 147 by section 51 will give that clarity and flexibility.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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