HC Deb 05 July 2004 vol 423 cc540-1
9. Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab)

How many of the families who have qualified for child tax credits have as a consequence been removed from access to the qualifying benefits which would make them eligible for consideration for discretionary grants or loans under the social fund. [181895]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Chris Pond)

We estimate that fewer than 50,000 families will be moved off benefits that would have qualified them for consideration for a social fund budgeting loan or community care grant. The vast majority of those families stand to gain substantially from that change, many by more than £20 a week, and will continue to have access to crisis loans and elements of the regulated social fund.

Mr. Barnes

To be considered for a discretionary grant or loan under the social fund, families have to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit, such as income support, but have not child tax credit payments moved some needy families out of that qualifying regime? Will that not get worse when the child benefit element is migrated into child tax credit later this year? Can we not get round the problem by making maximum child tax credit payments a qualifying benefit as well?

Mr. Pond

My hon. Friend will understand that we want the discretionary social fund to be focused on those who need it most, which normally means those on income support, but we shall continue to look at ways of improving the social fund and access to it, in the context of wider changes in its operation.