Memorandum submitted by the Family Welfare
Association (SF 37)
Review of Social FundFamily Welfare Association
and its work with poor families dependent on Income Support and
the Social Fund.
1. About FWA
FWA was founded, as the Charity Organisation
Society (COS) in 1869. COS pursued a combined strategy of providing
financial help and advocating for policy changes to help people
suffering the effects of poverty. Direct services were soon added
to provide emotional and practical support.
2. FWA work today
FWA has four broad service areas:
1. Support Services for children and families
in need and at risk in England.
2. Community based services for adults in
3. Grant Administration services giving
financial help to families in need across the four counties of
4. Educational Grant Advice give advice
and financial help to fund vocational training for adults wishing
to improve their employment prospects through education. This
service operates across the four counties of the UK.
FWA is unusual in the voluntary sector for working
across the client groups. As a grant maker we are unusual as our
grant making is informed, and in our view strengthened by, our
experience of running direct services with families in need.
3. FWA grant administration services
3.1 FWA is charitable trustee of 72 charitable
trusts, which were established to benefit individuals. Most of
the trusts were set up prior to the introduction of the state
pension and welfare benefit systems. The trusts were established
to meet essential needs and many were originally used to keep
people out of the workhouse. FWA often used its resources to help
people get back on their feet and into employment through funding
convalescence or loans to start small businesses. Today FWA also
administers grants to individuals on behalf of about 15 Charitable
Trusts and Livery Companies as well as those for which we are
3.2 The introduction of the Welfare State
enabled FWA to utilise its resources to benefit poor families
by providing items which the State cannot reasonably be expected
to fund. Items in this category include music lessons for exceptionally
gifted children, expensive aids and gadgets which help disabled
children to communicate or participate in the community, holidays
for families etc.
3.3 After the introduction of the Social
Fund FWA became flooded with applications for essential items.
Today nearly all of our funding is allocated to essential items
and little to enhancing the quality of life for individuals and
families in need.
4. FWA grant making today
4.1 FWA allocates grants across the four
countries of the UK. In the last financial year ending March 2000,
FWA made nearly 5,000 grants totalling nearly £1 million.
Our Grants Allocation panel made up of volunteers meets 48 weeks
per year making about 100 grants per week. FWA believes it is
the size of our grant making and breadth of our experience which
enables us to comment on the failures and successes of the Social
4.2 The people we help
Almost any kind of need can be met through the
wide variety of trusts administered by FWA. Clothing, (particularly
children's), household needs such as beds, cookers, washing machines
are most commonly requested but we have requests for unusual needs
not considered by Social Fund such as boat fares for Irish families
living in London who wish to return home to Ireland to live.
All of FWA grants are made to families on income
support, or very low wage earners. They will not be considered
unless all forms of statutory funding have been exhausted. This
includes mainly Social Fund, S17 payments, Community Care Grants,
Equipment loans and benefits for disabled children. All families
have to submit a budget on household income and expenditure. Applications
are made, and cheques issued to a worker involved with the family
such as social workers, health visitors, GP, priest, teacher.
4.3 Managing the demand for our Services
With a broad remit and huge numbers of poor
people needing financial help, demand exceeds the resources available.
Many grant making Trusts define criteria for eligibility to control
applications. As FWA is a charitable trustee of 72 grant making
trusts and administrator of 15 more, all with differing powers
it is difficult for us to do this. FWA is also proud of our flexibility
and willingness to consider families with unusual needs which
cannot be considered by other grant makers. FWA controls its applications
by restricting application forms to open and closed periods. Typically
we open for two weeks and close for six whilst we process applications.
This means we can consider all families and issue cheques within
10 days. We also make emergency grants within 24 hours and have
some flexibility within our closed periods for families with exceptional
FWA submits evidence to the Select Committee
using families' case studies to illustrate the points. All of
the families quoted here have been funded by FWA. All are typical
of the applications we receive and fund every week.
FWA experience of grant making and evidence that
families with essential needs that are not being met by the Social
The Family Welfare Association, which makes
a wide range of grants to 5,000 families a year from all four
countries of the UK, has the following observations to make of
the current system of Social Fund loans. We have illustrated the
points we wish to make by drawing on the case histories of our
applicants. All applicants to FWA must submit an income and expenditure
budgets, and they have been refused all forms of statutory funding
for which they could be eligible. Typically this includes Social
Fund, Children Act Section 17 payments, Community Care Grants
and Health funding. Within our grant making we do fund families
with needs which fall outwith the criteria of the Social Fund.
We also fund very low wage earners who are in a similar position
to those on benefits, but have no access to the Social Fund. In
all the following cases the families have essential needs that
are not being met and the health, physical and emotional development
of the children is adversely affected as a result.
1. Income Support is insufficient to enable
families to replay loans
Many families referred to FWA for financial
help are rejected by the Social Fund as their income is insufficient
to repay any loan of any size. They are rejected regardless of
the need for essential items.
Case StudyMs K
Ms K is 33 years old and a single parent of
four children aged 11, 10, five and four years. Her caravan was
subject to an arson attack and its entire contents were destroyed.
She was housed by an emergency group and placed in bed and breakfast
accommodation before being re-housed. She had no furniture, bedding,
towels and only a limited amount of children's clothing. She also
needed crockery, cutlery and curtains. She was rejected by the
Social Fund as she was unable to afford to repay any loan. Some
funds had been found through other charities and FWA gave the
balance of £100.
2. Families are given only a percentage of
sum requested regardless of need or ability to repay the loan
Some families are given only a small amount
of the sum requested and needed regardless of the level of deductions.
Currently, the Social Fund will not give more than an amount requiring
repayment of 20 per cent of their income support because they
will not be able to repay it. It is unclear why some families
are part funded to the 20 per cent level and some are not. There
are also varying rules on repayment rates which seem to be decided
on a family by family basis. The case study below illustrates
the part funding decision when a relatively small sum was requested
for a specific item.
Case StudyMs L and five children
The Chair of a tenants association applying
for an FWA grant on behalf of Ms L writes "Ms L manages her
money well despite her large family. Her bills are paid, she has
no debts and sets aside a weekly sum for replacing shoes, buying
presents for Christmas etc. She recently applied for a Social
Fund loan for £185 to purchase a fridge/freezer. Bulk buying
enables her to save money. The Social Fund gave £100 as they
said she could not repay a larger loan". FWA was pleaded
to fund the balance required.
3. Problems faced by those on maximum loan
ceiling of 20 per cent when they need more essential items
There are two problems in relation to this:
The loan maximum and the inflexibility of the system.
3.1 The loan maximum
A significant number of those turned down for
a grant/loan by the Social Fund and later seek help from FWA are
already paying back from their weekly benefit large sums to the
DSS for earlier loans.
Families are caught in a trap. On the one hand
they clearly cannot afford to repay more than 20 per cent from
the weekly income. On the other hand, if there is a crisis need,
how is the family to meet this. At present families are entirely
dependent on charity. A large percentage of applicants to FWA
are in this position.
Case study of Ms D
Ms D is 26 years old, single and has two children
aged eight years and nine months. She receives £93.85 per
week income support and her outgoings total £93.49. The family
are in need of a bed and bedding for the eldest son, a cot or
bed and bedding and other essential items for the baby and carpets
for many of the rooms in their house. Mrs D was forced to move
from her previous accommodation as she was the victim of violence
from her eldest son's father but was unable to take the carpets
from there as they had disintegrated through her son urinating
on them. Urinating was a direct result of his disturbance arising
from witnessing the domestic violence. Ms D was refused a Social
Fund loan as she is already repaying previous loans at the maximum
she can afford. A grant of £250 was given by FWA.
3.2 The inflexibility of the system for those
with an existing loan
A large number of applicants are rejected for
a Social Fund loan if they have an existing loan. The existence
of the loan is sufficient reason for rejection regardless of the
need, how much the current loan is for, or how much has been repaid
of the existing loan. It is not clear why some families are refused
outright unless this is a method of rationing a cash limited budget.
Loans for poor people are different to those with bank accounts
and credit cards where loans can be restructured or extended when
an essential need arises.
Many of the families cited in this submission
are in this situation, and most will have been to an Appeal Tribunal
assisted by a social or money advice worker. In coming to a decision
families are often told by Tribunals that the items they have
requested, including beds and cookers, are not essential.
4. Some families need more essential items
than they can buy with a Social Fund loan
In the following cases the Social Fund limit
was insufficient to provide for all the families' needs. In FWA
experience this typically happens to families in the following
4.1 Families being rehoused
Moving house is an expensive business for us
all. Many poor people are in the rented sector and are only moved
because their current home is unsuited to the care of their children.
Usually they are overcrowded, but a larger home means more furniture
is required which they cannot afford to purchase. We have many
applicants in this position.
Case study of Ms K
Ms K is 33 years old, single and has five children
aged 15, 13, 12, three and one year. The worker writes, "M
and her family have just been rehoused from a one bedroom maisonette
into a four bedroom house. They were living in what can only be
described as critically overcrowded conditions. Mum shared the
bedroom with two boys, whilst the girls slept in the loft, which
they accessed via `a hole' in the wall. The girls were required
to crawl over exposed pipes and wires in order to get in and out
of the loft. A local campaign was started and after newspaper
coverage a new home was eventually found for them. They have now
been rehoused but due to their financial situation they do not
possess the financial resources to adequately furnish their long
awaited new home. Significant financial assistance is needed in
order to bring this family up to a basic standard of living. They
have no carpets nor sufficient furniture and M has difficulty
in providing adequate clothing for them all. M has also recently
gone through an emotionally harrowing experience of giving birth
to a stillborn baby. It is not known how much the stress of her
previous living conditions contributed to this. However, she is
slowly coming to terms with this tragic loss and is continuing
to cope with her parental responsibilities. I would be very grateful
if you would consider making a grant towards this family's needs."
Due to shortage of funds FWA could only make a grant of £150
towards their considerable needs.
4.2 Problems faced by people dependent on
benefits long term
Long-term unemployed people are likely to need
more financial assistance for essential items as items begin to
wear out and the family cannot afford to replace them. FWA receives
a large number of applications from families who have so little
that they need more assistance than the Social Fund would lend.
Case StudyMr and Mrs A
The social worker applying on behalf of this
family wrote: "Mr and Mrs A have five children from their
own marriage and Mrs A's previous marriage. Mrs A is Irish and
long-term unemployed and known to social services as she suffers
from long-term depression and has recently been diagnosed with
cancer of the eye. Mr A is an asylum seeker and unable to work.
Recently their house was broken into and much of their furniture
and household items were stolen. They have been refused a Social
Fund loan as they are currently repaying a loan of £29 per
week. Their home circumstances are very poor. They have only three
beds between seven of them and two chairs they found in a skip.
They have no fridge or cooker and are feeding their children from
take-aways and heating tins of beans in a kettle. They also need
money for winter shoes and school uniforms for two children. As
a result of the cancer and home circumstances, Mrs A's anti-depressants
have had to be increased. Can FWA help?" FWA gave £700
towards their expenses.
4.3 Families setting up home for the first
Families referred to us within this category
are usually vulnerable families such as young lone parents, or
children leaving care. The applications are made by social workers
concerned about the welfare of very young children or vulnerable
teenagers. Their needs are similar as for the families quoted
above in this section. The ability to repay the loan can be more
difficult as the level of income support is lower for young people.
In the week of 16 January FWA funded six young families and the
following sad case of two young people trying to set up a home
Young people P aged 18 and brother S aged six
At the age of three and one these brothers were
abandoned by their mother and subsequently adopted by their aunt
and uncle. At the age of 15 P eventually disclosed that he had
been sexually abused by his uncle for years in an attempt to stop
the abuse of his younger brother. One year ago his aunt left the
marital home and has made no contact with the family. The uncle's
behaviour has deteriorated and P left and is currently renting
a caravan. He has been promised a small flat by a housing association
and is determined to set up home for himself and S and to support
S whilst he completes his education. He has recently started work
and brings home £120 per week from which he will need to
pay rent of £50. He believes he can manage but cannot afford
to purchase the furniture they will need. He also needs clothing
as the uncle will not allow P to enter the house to collect personal
items "as he paid for them". FWA gave P a grant for
clothing and pledged a further sum for furniture when the flat
5. Income Support is insufficient for families
with above average costs and who cannot afford to repay Social
There are some families living on income support
with additional costs for which there are no allowances payable.
This is typical of families caring for a disabled child. Other
families just have very high outgoings such as high heating bills
because of poor housing. This level of expenditure is beyond the
control of the family. The needs are ongoing and it is clear that
families cannot afford to repay any loan, have no access to the
Social Fund and are therefore dependent on charity for all their
Case study of Ms W
Ms W is 23 years old, single, unemployed and
has one child, E, aged 10 months. After suffering an injury at
birth, E is severely disabled and suffers multiple fits, chest
infections, is fed via nasogastric tube and vomits frequently.
His growth has been rapid and, coupled with the regular vomiting,
Ms W has found it difficult to provide him with enough suitable
clothes. A grant of £100 was given for clothing.
6. Families with essential needs for whom
no statutory agency takes responsibility
There is remarkably poor co-ordination or understanding
between the roles and responsibilities of all the statutory agencies
at a national and local level that are empowered to provide financial
help to individuals and families in need. In relation to the Social
Fund families are rejected as they are not eligible to apply,
yet they have no other funding source. Typically, from FWA experience
this includes families with a disabled child, children needing
school uniforms, and asylum seekers.
6.1 Children with disabilities
Children with disabilities very often have extra
care needs that are not being taken into account in setting income
support levels. This is illustrated in 5 above. Measures planned
by this government will help some, but not all children with disabilities
in this position. Other families require specialist equipment
and families seeking help to fund this discover all too often
that statutory agencies can be overly rigid in setting criteria.
As a result some families with essential needs are not getting
the help that they need.
Case study of Mr and Mrs M
Mrs M is 26 years old, married and has three
children aged six, five and six months. Both she and her husband
are unemployed. The youngest child was born prematurely, resulting
in respiratory problems which require her to be on continuous
oxygen. A good quality high calorie diet is essential but the
food needs to be prepared using a blender and containers are needed
for storage. Mr and Mrs M have been refused a grant from the Social
Fund (not an essential item) social services (as it is not preventing
admission to care) and the health authority aids budget (as blenders
are not on their funding list). FWA made a grant of £50 for
a food blender and containers.
Local Education authorities are empowered to
fund school uniforms for low income families. Generally LEA have
used the free school meals criteria for allocation of uniform
vouchers. Over the past two years FWA has received an alarming
increase in requests for help with uniforms as more and more LEA's
are cutting their uniform budgets. This is an increase in demand
on the family budget. Many requests arise as emergencies as children
are not allowed to attend school without the uniform. The Social
Fund will not fund clothing.
Case studyMr V
Mr V has one daughter aged 11. The Social Worker
wrote "Mr V has suffered from mental health problems (ie
anxiety attacks and panics) for 13 years and is unable to work.
Two years ago his wife died unexpectedly. His daughter was traumatised
by this and still shows symptoms such as bed-wetting. Mr V is
unable to take a Social Fund loan as he is up to the limit. The
home is sparsely furnished and they have no TV, radio and only
minimum amount of clothes. Mr V is concerned his daughter starts
secondary school in September and has no money to buy the uniform.
Mr V is concerned she will be ridiculed if she does not appear
presentable and it will add to her problems". FWA gave £200
for uniform and shoes.
Since the introduction of the voucher system,
FWA has received a large increase in requests for help for asylum
seekers. As most arrive with little more than the clothes they
stand up in. The need for essential items includes clothes, pots
and pans, towels and bedding. Those offered housing need furniture
and equipment. As there is extremely limited statutory help for
this group and many grant making trusts are not empowered to help
this group FWA has far more requests than we can fund.
Case studyMr and Mrs P
Mr and Mrs P are Kosovan refugees who were brutally
tortured. They have four children. They have recently been offered
a house but with only £80 per week to live on they cannot
afford to buy all the furniture and equipment they need. FWA gave
them a grant of £500 towards their needs.
7. Defining essential needs
There is a great deal of evidence from applications
made to FWA that the Social Fund does not define what are essential
items which can be funded. This can be viewed as a strength or
weakness. Many applications are rejected by the Social Fund for
cookers, fridge's, beds, as these have not been seen by assessors,
or tribunals, as essential. In our view they are and we would
advocate that the review of the Social Fund should set out essential
items based on a criteria of health and physical development.
See section three for further comments on this.
FWA believes more flexibility is needed in defining
essential needs and that the particular needs of a family should
be taken into account. The three cases below demonstrate the need
for flexibility. All of these are sad cases but FWA receives one
or two such cases every week.
Ms G has one daughter aged nine. Ms G acted
as a police witness. Following a successful prosecution they were
terrorised. Their home daubed with faeces and spray paint, windows
frequently broken. Eventually they were subjected to an arson
attack, which burnt many of their possessions. The Social Fund
gave a grant for furniture but refused £150 for security
equipment. FWA funded these together with a grant to replace the
child's lost toys and clothes.
Mr and Mrs L
Mr and Mrs L have two children at homeaged
20 and 14. The daughter aged 14 was diagnosed with cancer and
had the bones in one leg replaced with titanium. Mr L gave up
work to care for her. The family live in a rural area and it is
essential that they have a car to drive their daughter for treatment
every three weeks. In between she is prone to acute infections
requiring immediate hospitalisation. Whilst awaiting the outcome
of an application for a lease car through the mobility scheme
their exhaust on their old car blew. No statutory agency accepted
the need to fund this and FWA gave an emergency grant of £100
to ensure the daughter received the medical care she needed.
Ms D, a lone parent and a solicitor's clerk
had to give up work when she became ill with a major heart problem.
She is now bedridden awaiting a heart transplant. She is being
cared for entirely by her 11-year old son who shops and cooks
for her and does such cleaning as he can. They managed on income
support using all Ms D's savings to keep up the mortgage payments
until these were exhausted. The family were referred to us as
their boiler had broken down. This is needed to provide warmth
essential for her heart conditionas well as hot water.
No agency was able to fund the repairs of £100 as it did
not fall within their criteria. FWA funded the repairs, as well
as making a grant of £100 to provide for a better Christmas
for the two of them.
8. Inflexibility of the benefit system, including
the use of the Social Fund as a method of short term investment
to reduce dependency on benefits
There is little creative thinking in the allocation
of grants. In particular FWA is concerned that short investment
may lead to long term benefit for families and reduce dependency
on the state benefit system.
Case Study of Ms C
Ms C is 34 years old, separated and has two
children aged four and two years. The worker writes, "C is
hoping to return to Ireland shortly and is seeking help with the
removal costs. C says she was abused by her father as a teenager
and when this became known it ruined her relationship with her
mother who was in denial of everything. C then fled to England,
as she was no longer welcome in her mother's house. C now has
two children. In 1992 she lost a stillborn baby and afterwards
she suffered a breakdown. She split up from her husband about
a year ago as she had been subjected to domestic violence throughout
their 10 year marriage. She is desperate to return to Ireland
to live, as she is very isolated and depressed living here. Her
mother has asked her to return home at last and has asked her
forgiveness. In Ireland she will have the support of her mother
and her three brothers and is optimistic about her future. The
only problem hindering her move is the removal costs. The DSS
have refused her a grant or loan as she is moving outside of England".
FWA gave a grant of £150 towards removal
expenses. She will now move off benefits system in the UK.
Case Study William aged 17
William aged 18 undertook work experience with
a stone mason. He was a rather immature and wild young man and
against all expectations showed an aptitude and promise and enjoyed
the work. When a vacancy arose he was offered a permanent job,
but was unable to take it because he needed a pair of stout working
boots which cost about £70. No statutory funding was available.
His parents themselves dependent on benefits, were unable to help.
FWA gave £100 for boots and overalls to enable this young
man to move off benefits and to give him a chance of an apprenticeship
and career for the future.
An overview of the current system of Income Support
and Social Fund and its impact on Children
1. Conclusions drawn from the evidence contained
within our grant applications
1.1 Charity funding.
FWA is one of several charities funding essential
items for families with children who have fallen through the safety
net of the welfare state. Many applicants are reliant upon charitable
help as they cannot afford to repay loans. Others are dependent
on charity as the system of statutory funding is too inflexible
to provide the financial help that they need. In our view it is
not right that families should be dependent on charitable help
to fund essential items in the UK. We are a wealthy country with
a welfare system that should seek to fund a basic minimum of standards
for all its citizens. FWA is clearly concerned about the needs
of families with children, whose health, physical and emotional
development is being adversely affected by their poor home environment.
1.2 The need to define and provide essential
items for health, physical development of children and their education.
FWA believes the Social Fund should clearly
specify what household items are essential and these should be
funded regardless of a families ability to pay. FWA believes these
should be funded through grants not loans. The criteria FWA would
use are items essential for the health, physical development and
education of the children. There needs to be debate about items
that are essential but FWA would advocate cooker, heating, fridge
and furniture providing a minimum level of comfort, such as a
bed for each child. In our view the health and welfare of children
is so important that families should not need to depend on charity
to fund essential items. FWA calls this Category A, essential
1.3 The need to define and provide furniture
for a home.
This would include all items that are not essential
for healthy development, but are clearly needed to ensure the
appropriate physical and emotional care of the children. FWA calls
this Category B essential needs and would include furniture for
sitting rooms, TV, dining table etc.
1.4 The Social Fund should not be cash
Funding for essential items set out in category
A and B above should not be a financial or geographical lottery.
This is why FWA believes the Social Fund should not be cash limited.
1.5 The Social Fund should be more flexible
in defining essential items and take account of the varying needs
The families in case histories in section 7
and 8 demonstrate that families have essential needs but statutory
funding is too inflexible to meet their costs. There is a need
for the Social Fund to become a proper safety net for families
with essential if unusual needs. Poor people need access to a
"safety net" for essential needs.
1.6 The Social Fund repayments should
be variable for families.
In particular we are concerned that there is
no facility to restructure loans to enable more money to be borrowed
when further essential needs arise.
1.7 There is a need to provide setting
up home grants.
A new home is a time of major expenditure and
families need money to provide an adequate level of furnishing
and equipment to turn the four walls into a home. This principle
has been accepted for those eligible for community care grants
and in FWA view it should be extended to families with children.
Like Community Care, these should be grants not loans.
1.8 The need to sort out statutory responsibilities
for financial help.
There is a need to sort out the responsibilities
of all the agencies at a national and local level who have responsibility
for the financial support of families in need. This includes Social
Services, Health Authorities, Local Educational Authorities (for
Whilst local policy is not the responsibility
of the Social Fund, it is an issue central Government could address
and the impact of local policies impacts on demands made of the
Social Fund. FWA suggests that policies such as these arise when
policy at a national and local level is unclear in relation to
minimum income levels and responsibilities for meeting the costs
of disabled children in the community. Similar difficulties arise
in relation to payments made under S17 of the Children Act 1989.
Amounts set aside to meet payments, how it is used and its purposes
vary widely across local authority boundaries.
FWA are also concerned that statutory agencies
are increasingly making the assumption that people have access
to loans and credit. For example, it is now commonplace for 90
per cent of the costs of adaptions to homes of disabled people
to be met with families left to fund the balance. Families on
benefits have only charities to turn to for the balance. Families
on benefits have no access to loans in the private sector or the
capacity to repay them.
2. FWA Perspective on Family Poverty
It is clear to FWA that nearly all families
living on income support are good managers of their money. They
meet their bills, household expenses and most have very little
debt. Most debt is to the Social Fund or low sums owing to the
Christmas clubs and catalogues, or to the utility companies. The
real problem for families on income support is that they have
no surplus to save, nor do they have the capacity to repay loans.
They cannot meet the costs of replacing
household equipment and furniture when it breaks down or wears
out. They simply cannot save enough out of income support to replace
expensive items. Income support is insufficient.
The quality of homes for families
dependent on benefits is poor. This is particularly true for those
families on long-term benefitsor those who did not establish
a home before having children.
Families who move need a one off
injection of cash to equip their homes. This includes growing
families moving from a one bedroom flat to a home suitable for
raising children and those fleeing domestic violence etc.
Some families have needs, which cannot
be budgeted for and are not funded by the Social Fund. This includes,
clothes, particularly winter coats, shoes and school uniforms.
These items are often difficult to find in charity shops as they
tend to be worn out and thrown away. There are also items of need
which no statutory agency takes responsibility for providing.
3. Impact of Poverty on Children
FWA's main concern about the Social Fund and
Income Support is the impact that living in poverty has on children
and their well being and development. It is clear to FWA that
Income Support is insufficient to repay loansor to expect
families to save for replacement of expensive items. This impacts
on children in the following ways.
Families have no automatic entitlement to items
essential to a child's health and physical development eg, cookers,
fridge's, forms of cost effective heating, own bed to sleep in.
3.2 Physical and emotional development.
Many poor families, particularly those long
term unemployed, families who have never worked or large families,
live in a poor physical environment and have few essential personal
items. Every week we receive applications from families where
the children are growing up in partially furnished homes, with
no books, TV, radio, few toys. Many children have only two sets
of clothes, one pair of shoes and no winter coats. This affects
children's self esteem but it is very bad for the physical and
3.3 Education and creative environment.
The homes lack stimulation and an environment
which supports educational learning and creativity. It is no surprise
to FWA that children from poor families achieve less well at school.
Sharing beds, overcrowding, few toys, radio, no cash for trips
to swimming pools, cinema and some have no TV.
The physical environment supports children's
ability to learn and be prepared for the demands for school. Stimulation
and creativity that comes from TV, radio, books, toys and leisure
activities develops a child's quest to learn. Parents worn down
by the struggle of making ends meet, are poorly equipped themselves
to compensate for the shortfall in physical surroundings and income
to provide leisure activities and toys.
3.4 Expectations for the future.
Research consistently demonstrates that children
in poor families achieve less well as adults. It seems to FWA
that it is inevitable for children poorly equipped for school
emotionally, and physically, will achieve less in school. Worryingly,
they expect to do less well. Self-esteem is vital for a positive
view of the world and the ability to take on the challenges it
presents. Children with poor self-image arising from their home
and their families personal circumstances together with an experience
of life which is not stimulating and creative, are poorly equipped
to challenge the world.
4. Recommendations for the Future
4.1 Social Fund in context of Income
FWA believes that the level of Income Support
should be assessed. We believe very simply that there is a need
to calculate how much it costs to live. We recommend the work
of the Family Budget Unit and its calculation of a low cost but
adequate income standard, once calculated, should form a minimum
income guarantee from which no statutory funding is deducted.
4.2 Social Fund: Grants and Loans.
FWA proposes a subdivision of the Social Fund
into a system of grants and loans.
4.2.1 Essential Items: Category A.
Household items essential for health and physical
development of children, cookers, fridge, one bed per child, bedding,
FWA calls these category 1 essential needs and
we believe grants should be made for these items to ensure a minimum
physical standard of health and care for children.
4.2.2 Essential Items: Category B.
Household items needed to make a home. This
could include curtains, dining table and chairs. FWA suggests
an initial grant could be made to equip a home for families with
children. The provision of community care grants has proved the
need for this and we believe should be extended to families in
similar situations. Thereafter income support levels should be
fixed to enable families to set aside income to replace items
through savings or loans.
4.2.3 Children's Personal Needs.
Child Need items include winter coats, shoes,
school uniforms, baby needs. Children grow and develop and it
is FWA's view that Income Support should be sufficient to meet
these needs through saving and budgeting. FWA is a great supporter
of lump sum payments. Maternity grants, winter fuel allowances
successful in meeting need are spent on items for which the grant
was payable. The Pensioners "Christmas Bonus" provides
extra cash at a difficult time for those who are living on minimum
income and find it difficult to budget. Once again it is a life
line for our poorest pensioners.
FWA propose a Children's Need Annual Cash Grant.
Based on our experiences of demand for children's needs we propose
allocating a grant in September or October, would be most helpful
to meet the costs of shoes and winter coats. These are the most
expensive items, but also the most needed in terms of children's
4.2.4 There will inevitably be a need for
the Social Fund loan system for families with exceptional or unusual
needsor those unable to save sufficient cash to fund expensive
items. FWA proposes that the Social Fund has flexible criteria
to meet the very wide range of family needs.
In our proposal set out above FWA are suggesting
the replacement of the Social Fund loan system with grants for
essential items, loans and lump sum payments on an annual basis
to meet children's development needs and also a setting up home
grant. We also advocate for a review of Income Support levels
that are based on average household running costs. This should
be a minimum, guaranteed income sufficient to allow for savings
or repayment of loans for replacing worn household items. In the
longer term FWA would advocate that the Income Support level should
be set at a raised level to allow for families to control their
own savings and expenditure.
FWA would welcome the opportunity to discuss
our experience providing financial help for families in need and
also our proposals. The Chair of our Grants Advisory Panel, Rita
Bleiman extends an invitation to any member of the Select Committee
to attend a meeting of our grant allocation panel. I would be
willing to discuss our proposal with the Select Committee.
19 January 2001