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The social fund, the family fund, loans and advances

Under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the Discretionary Social Fund, which used to provide community care grants, budgeting loans and crisis loans, was abolished. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will continue to administer the Social Fund statutory payments, including the cold weather payments, which your child may be eligible for if they receive Disability Living Allowance.  

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jul 15, 2021

Parent and child with down's syndrome

Here's some info on the emergency loans and grants now available. 

Short-term Advances

These replace Crisis Loan alignment payments and other Crisis Loans paid owing to benefit issues, and will be administered by the DWP.

Who's eligible:

  • New benefit claimants needing to bridge the gap between their claim and their first payment
  • Claimants whose circumstances have changed, which means the amount of benefit they're entitled to has increased
  • Cases where it is impractical to pay benefit on the due date (eg due to a technical problem)

All claimants must be able to demonstrate that they are in financial need.


  • Dependent on your personal allowance as part of the benefit you have claimed and the number of days the benefit has been due to you


  • Over three months (six months in exceptional circumstances) 

Budgeting Advances

These replace Budgeting Loans, which will remain available for claimants of legacy benefits until their claims have all either been closed or moved to Universal Credit, and will be administered by the DWP.

Who's eligible: 

  • Claimants must have been claiming Universal Credit or an income-related benefit for at least six months OR need the Budgeting Advance in order to obtain or retain work
  • The maximum earnings threshold during the six months before applying for a Budgeting Advance is £2,600 for single claimants and £3,600 for couples
  • Claimants must have repaid any previous Budget Advances before reapplying


  • The maximum amount available will depend on whether your Universal Credit claim is for a single person or couple, and whether you are responsible for any children or qualifying young people.


  • Over 12 months (18 months in exceptional circumstances) 

Crisis Loans for general living expenses (including rent in advance) and Community Care Grants have been replaced by new local provision, which will be administered by local authorities in England, the Scottish Welfare Fund and the Discretionary Assistance Fund for Wales.  

The Family Fund

The Family Fund helps families on a low income with severely disabled children by providing grants for 'things that make life easier and more enjoyable', such as washing machines, hospital visiting costs, computers and holidays. You can apply once a year.

"The Family Fund called today and said they can help! I was all of a dither because it was so out of the blue. They have offered money for garden play equipment, clothes, days out and sensory toys. The woman on the phone was lovely!" lou031205  


There are thousands of funds for certain disabilities or people in certain geographical areas.

The following list includes some charities offering grants for families with children with special needs. Many of these organisations offer a lot more than grants, including information, advice and many other services. But if you're specifically looking for grants for your child, then this is a good place to start your research.

    • Everyone Can Helps disabled people communicate more effectively - Communication aids, computers and assistive technology for people with disabilities. Advice, assessment and installation.
    • Birchington Convalescent Benefit Fund Small grants towards holidays.
    • The Caudwell Charity Grants for children with an illness, disability or special needs.
    • Cerebra Grants and help for children under 16 with neurological conditions
    • Child Brain Injury Trust Small grants for children with acquired brain injury (or their siblings) to allow them to participate more in society eg. Trips out, funding for a new hobby etc.
    • Children Today Charitable Trust Provides grants for special equipment for children and young people with disabilities.

Mumsnet special needs webguide has links to heaps of other useful organisations

Disability Living Allowance | Allowances and tax credits | Help with additional costs