Mr. Andy Stewart
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he has yet reached any conclusion as a result of his continued monitoring of the social fund.
§ Mr. Tony Newton
Our continued monitoring of the social fund suggests that it is generally working well. After a slow start in the first year, awareness of both community care grants and of the interest-free loan system has clearly grown. Arrangements for repayment also appear to be working well, indeed, the flow of repayments is somewhat higher than had been forecast, though this partly reflects the pattern of loans in the previous financial year.
It is however also clear from our monitoring that, as might be expected at what is still a relatively early stage in the fund's operation, the pattern of demand varies from office to office, and the present budgets of certain offices have come under exceptional pressure. We shall of course seek to take these factors into account in setting the allocation for 1990–91, which we shall do in the early part of next year. Meanwhile, however, I intend to increase the gross budget of the fund by about £3 million in 1989–90, in order to increase the individual allocation of just under 100 offices where such particular pressures have arisen. In view of the flow of repayments, this will not entail a corresponding increase in the expected net total of expenditure in the present year.
§ Mr. Battle
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will review the national allocation to the social fund for the current year as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement.