From 14 November 2022, the Department for Communities is introducing improvements to the Social Fund Budgeting Loans process. These changes aim to reduce the time it takes to receive a loan payment.
The improved process allows customers to receive telephone communication about their loan decision as well as receiving a decision by letter. Budgeting Loan decision makers will issue an SMS text message to the customer prior to making the decision. They will then attempt to ring each customer to advise them if a loan award can be made and enable them to accept the offer on the call rather than wait for an offer letter to be issued and returned by post. It is estimated that this change will reduce the time taken to receive a Budgeting Loan payment by up to 10 days.
The process for applying for Budgeting Loans will not change. More information on how to apply is available on nidirect.
Customers who call DfC to request a loan application form will be advised of the improvement to service on the call. An information leaflet will be enclosed with the posted form.
Customers can choose not to engage by phone. DfC will always issue a decision by post. Where a customer does not wish to discuss their offer by phone or if they decline the new telephone process they can return their offer letter by post in the usual way.
Assurance for customers that the loan decision call is from DfC
Customers will be made aware via nidirect, initial contact with the Social Fund team, an information leaflet attached to the Budgeting Loan form and an SMS text that they will receive a call in relation to their Budgeting Loan decision, all of which aim to provide assurance that the call from DfC is genuine. However, for any customer who has concerns; who does not wish to engage by phone and for those who miss the call, the current postal offer letter process will remain in place. Customers who miss the call and subsequently contact Social Fund will have the opportunity to accept their Budgeting Loan offer on that call.
How customers will receive their budgeting loan decision via telephone communications
Customers should ensure a mobile number is supplied on their application form to avail of the telephone service.
- before DfC makes a decision on a Budgeting Loan application, the customer will receive an SMS text message to advise they will receive a call
- DfC will phone the customer on the same day to advise of the decision, the telephone number will display as withheld or begin with 0800
- if DfC can offer a Budgeting Loan, the customer will be able to accept repayment terms on the call
- if the customer agrees to the terms, DfC will issue the payment immediately and it will credit to their account within 3 working days
- if DfC cannot reach the customer by phone, the customer will receive the decision by post. If an offer has been made the customer can return the offer letter by post in the usual way or contact Social Fund by phone on 0800 0224 250 to accept their offer.