HC Deb 23 April 1993 vol 223 cc233-5W
Mr. Dewar

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when his Department plans to respond to the social policy research unit's research on the social fund.

Mr. Scott

We are currently carefully considering the operation of the social fund in response to the research commissioned from York university's social policy research unit, along with a number of other reports and our own close monitoring of the fund.

Ms Estelle Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, in respect of the Birmingham south-east district office social fund budget,(a) how many people were refused community care grants, budgeting loans and crisis loans in 1992–93, (b) how many people were refused each payment on priority grounds, (c) by what amount the grants and loans were underspent, (d) why social fund officers did not use their powers under Direction 31 to review the decisions of some of those previously refused to prevent the underspend and (e) what steps will be taken to prevent an underspend in the future.

Mr. Scott

The administration of the social fund is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member and a copy will be placed in the Library.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Ms Estelle Morris, dated 22 April 1993. As Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, it is my responsibility to answer questions about relevant operational matters. I am therefore replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the operation of the Social Fund at Birmingham South East District. Information on the number and reason for refusals of Social Fund applications is held by application, rather than by applicant. Details of the number of refusals and the number refused on grounds of insufficient priority in the financial year 1992–93 for Birmingham South East District are given in Annex A. Area Social Fund Officers (ASFOs) are obliged by Direction 41 to manage their District's allocations so that the planned level of expenditure is not exceeded in the financial year. In addition, they aim to meet consistently the highest priority needs throughout the year. ASFOs closely monitor expenditure throughout the year to ensure that any underspending of the District budget is kept to a minimum. These are standing arrangements which will continue. The outstanding allocation in the Birmingham South East District at 31 March 1993 was £11,028 for loans and £12,012 for grants. These figures represent 1.4 per cent. of the gross Social Fund allocation for the District. The number of decisions reviewed by Social Fund Officers (SFOs) under Direction 31 is not collated as a matter of routine. It is, however, known that no such reviews were undertaken in Birmingham South East District during March 1993 when, under the standing arrangements mentioned above, the ASFOs were monitoring claims intake and priorities closely with the aim of achieving a total Social Fund spend as close as possible to the annual budget figure. I hope you find this reply helpful. A copy of this letter will appear in the Official Report. A copy will also be placed in the Library.

Annex A
Birmingham South East District—1 April 1992 to 31 March 1993
Total number of refusals 2,344 85 4,169
Refusals (insufficient priority) 853 3 296
1 BL = Budgeting Loan.
2 CL = Crisis Loan.
3 CCG = Community Care Grant.