The Social Fund means that the state is no longer under a duty to guarantee cash payments, rather it offers temporary help during times of crisis or hardship. This establishes a different relationship between the individual and the state. It lowers expectations. And it fosters 'independence'.
The other aspects of a cash-limited Social Fund: priorities, fixed budgets, targets, which you are critical of, are more a reflection of the Government's method of public-sector management than of any underlying ideology, or way of saving cash.
Once the idea of a 'welfare benefit loan' has become established, the idea of a 'welfare state loan' can be more widely introduced. To an extent this has already happened - the Social Fund loan was introduced in 1988; since 1990 students in further education have been offered loans to 'top-up' their 'frozen' grants. Who next?
JOHN F. PROSSER
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