Those in the UK whose financial difficulties are stopping them from getting a job are entitled to extra money on top of their benefits, and they don’t have to pay it back.
The Flexible Support Fund (FSF) is issued on top of other benefits (like Universal Credit) and can be used to help pay for things like childcare, uniforms and work tools - as long as these things help you to get a job.
The fund could help with a number of issues that many people are faced with as a result of the government’s flagship Universal Credit system.
For example, you may be required to pay for childcare up-front before you can claim any of the money back. This means that some people who cannot do that are unable to work as they need to look after their children.
What is FSF?
Although the Flexible Support Fund has been around for eight years, not a lot is known about it. Managed by the Jobcentre, it replaced schemes like the Deprived Areas Fund, the Adviser Discretion Fund and the Travel to Interview Scheme.
The money can be used to pay for things like training (up to a value of £150), travel to interviews, tools, uniforms, cost of medical evidence required and childcare.
However, if you have already paid for something then you will not be able to claim FSF to refund the costs.
There is no limit to how much you can claim through FSF, and the Jobcentre will judge things on a case-by-case basis. And, because the FSF is a grant rather than a loan, you will not be required to pay the money back.
It is also possible to receive the funding more than once, however your second application will be subject to rigorous checks to make sure that the purchases you are making are helping you to find work. The Jobcentre will need to see receipts of what you use the money for within 14 days of you receiving the money, as well.
Who is eligible?
Anybody who receives help from the Jobcentre is able to make a claim for FSF.
You're not eligible for the extra cash if you're already getting help from the Work Programme, Work Choice or any legacy benefits that provide the same support. People who receive carer’s allowance may also be eligible, but you will need to check with the Jobcentre.
How to apply
If you think you are eligible for FSF, you can apply through your local Jobcentre.
You will be required to show proof that you cannot pay for the things you intend to use the funding for yourself before any claim is approved.
You will also have to list exactly what you will be using the money for.