Following on from the closure of the Independent Living Fund, the Social Fund, from which central government used to make discretionary crisis loans, community care grants, and budgeting loans, was abolished on 1 April 2013. Unlike the ILF, its budget transferred to local authorities.
However, authorities have no new powers, duties, or guidance under which to distribute their share of the fund. In practice, it seems that most authorities plan to provide a range of emergency payments, emergency provision through cash payments or vouchers, and payments in kind through local services such as food and furniture banks. As yet, however, there is little information in the public domain as to how such schemes will be operated.
There will be no review or appeal procedure for challenging LA’s decisions as to allocation of the new budget, and no national framework or guidance on how decisions should be made. However, decisions may be challenged through internal complaints procedures, before the Ombudsman, or by way of judicial review. Local authorities should therefore seek to ensure that they have a process in place for dealing with requests, and take consistent decisions on questions such as eligibility and approach.