If you're on a low income and need help with certain important costs, you may be able to get an interest-free Budgeting Loan from the Social Fund that you pay back.
Who is eligible?
You may be able to get a Budgeting Loan if you or your partner have been claiming or getting payment for one of the following benefits for at least 26 weeks:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- State Pension Credit
and you need help to pay for any of the following:
- furniture or household equipment
- clothing or footwear
- advance rent or removal expenses for a new home
- travelling expenses within the UK
- things to help you look for or start work
- improving, maintaining or securing your home
- repaying hire purchase or other debts you took out to pay for any of the above
How much do you get?
You can apply to borrow between £100 and £1,500. The final amount of Budgeting Loan you get will depend on:
- the number of people in your household
- any existing money you owe to the Social Fund
- your ability to repay the loan
- your savings - your award will usually be reduced by the amount of any savings you or your partner or civil partner have above £1,000 (or £2,000 if one or both of you is 62 or over)
The following can't be taken into account:
- the urgency of your need
- any health problems you or your family might have
How it's paid
The loan is paid into a bank, building society or other account provider's account.
How do you repay it?
Your repayments, which are worked out at the time your loan is agreed, are usually automatically taken out of your benefit. If you're not getting benefits, another method will be agreed.
You normally have to repay a Budgeting Loan within a period which does not exceed 104 weeks.
The repayments are interest-free which means you only pay back what you borrowed and no more.
Effect on other benefits
A Budgeting Loan award does not count as income and will not affect other benefit you're getting.
How to apply
You can contact your nearest Social Security or Jobs and Benefits office and ask them to send you claim form SF500.
Download a form to print off and complete
Or you can download the claim form, below, from the 'Do it online' section of the nidirect website. The form comes with notes to help you fill it in and tell you where to send it.
What to do if you are unhappy with the decision
If you're unhappy with a Budgeting Loan decision, you have the right to ask for a review. You must write to Social Security or Jobs and Benefits office within 28 days of the decision explaining why you think the decision was wrong and ask for it to be reviewed.
If, after that review, you still think the decision was wrong, you can ask for a further review by a Social Fund Inspector. The Inspectors are independent from the Department for Social Development. The review process is quick and simple, and should take no longer than 12 working days.
You can download the leaflet and claim form: 'How to ask for an independent review' from the Office of the Social Fund Commissioner for Northern Ireland website.