HC Deb 28 February 1994 vol 238 cc637-8
7. Mrs. Roche

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to review the position regarding grants and loans from the social fund.

Mr. Scott

Our routine monitoring arrangements for the discretionary social fund already allow us to keep its operation under regular scrutiny.

Mrs. Roche

Will the Minister consider extending the provision for people such as two of my constituents? After many months of unemployment, they have recently managed to obtain casual work, but they cannot afford the fare to travel across London to take up that employment, and they have found that a loan from the social fund is not available.

Mr. Scott

The social fund was not introduced to provide help with travel to work. The Department of Employment has a variety of schemes, including schemes to pay for travel for those who are being interviewed for jobs. It is right that once people are in work—unless they are entitled to family credit in certain circumstances—the responsibility for travel is theirs.

Mr. Willetts

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that every social fund loan repaid is money that is then available to help someone else on income support?

Mr. Scott

It has been a feature of the success of the social fund that the resources can be recycled to help many more people than were helped under any previous scheme.

Mr. Bradley

Does the Minister not realise that his monitoring has led to a crisis in social fund loans? Department of Social Security offices throughout the country report that they can give loans only to people who are in the highest risk category. When will the Minister put more money into the system so that people can be treated fairly, whether they walk through the door at the beginning of the financial year or at the end of it?

Mr. Scott

There has been a substantial increase in the social fund—by 15 per cent. over the past 12 months and by 50 per cent. since April 1991. We have responded to the increased needs of the social fund over that period.