Q. I am about to move into my first property and need help towards the rent in advance and some removal expenses, is there help available for me? I am currently getting ESA as well as PIP for care.
A. You may be entitled to make an application to the Social Fund for a budgeting loan. In order to make an application you must be receiving a qualifying benefit.
You have not stated if your ESA is contribution based or income related but in order to make an application you can only apply if you receive Income Related ESA.
The other qualifying benefits are Income Support, Guaranteed Pension Credit and Income Based Job Seekers Allowance. Access to the Social Fund is not available to Universal Credit claimants. You must have also been getting the benefit for at least 26 weeks.
Finally, if you have any savings above £1,000 you cannot apply (savings below £1,000 will, however, be taken into account and will be assessed when the Department of Work & pensions (DWP) decide how much to award you, for example if you have £300 and apply for £800 the most the DWP will award will be £500).
You can only apply for certain categories of help (rent in advance and removal expenses are allowable).
The system is discretionary so although you can apply if you meet the above criteria you might not be successful in your application (payments are made from a limited budget).
If the application is unsuccessful or you are only awarded a partial amount you can request the decision is looked at again within a month of the decision.
The amount the DWP can award is also dependent on your circumstances (for example a single person will receive less than a couple or an applicant with dependent children).
Your ability to repay the loan will also be taken into account (so if you have other deductions to your benefits for loans, rent arrears, etc.) this may affect the success of the application.
You may also be entitled to assistance from other sources, for example your local council, but this will vary from area to area as well as local charities.
The loan is repayable and the amount is set by regulations, if you are unhappy with the repayment amount there is no formal right of review or appeal but you can complain if for example the deductions to your benefit will cause hardship.