This advice applies to Northern Ireland. Change country
Changes to the Social Fund
If you get certain benefits and have to meet the costs of unexpected or one-off expenses, a payment, loan or grant from the Social Fund may help you pay for what you need. From 28 November 2016 some parts of the Social Fund were replaced by a new service called Discretionary Support.
What is the Social Fund?
Payments from the Social Fund are made to help you out financially if you get certain benefits and are struggling to meet the costs of dealing with a major or unexpected event.
Examples of payments from the Social Fund include:
- Funeral Payments, to meet the costs of funeral expenses
- Winter Fuel Payments, paid to all people over the state pension age for a woman
- Cold Weather Payments, paid when the temperature drops below a certain level for seven consecutive days
- SureStart Maternity Grants to help with the costs of a new baby
- Community Care Grants to help you set up home in the community if you're leaving care, prison or have been homeless. You can also apply for travel expenses to visit relatives in need in other parts of the country
- Budgeting Loans to help you buy essential equipment, such as furniture or clothing, or for essential travel expenses
- Crisis Loans to help with urgent expenses because of an emergency or a disaster.
What has changed?
Community care grants and crisis loans
Discretionary Support payments have replaced Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for household items and living costs. Discretionary Support offers grants and interest free loans to people on a low income who are in exceptional or crisis situations.
Budgeting Loans, Funeral Payments, Maternity Grants
Budgeting Loans, Funeral Payments, Sure Start Maternity Grants, Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments continue to be paid under the Social Fund.
If you need a loan before you get your benefit
If you need help until your benefit claim has been paid, you can ask for a Short Term Advance of Benefit, instead of what was called a Crisis Loan.
- Help for people on a low income – the Social Fund and Discretionary Support
- Welfare reform – what's changing
Other useful information
- More about Changes to the Social Fund on the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk