The social fund has been a controversial instrument of social policy in the UK since its introduction in 1988. This book brings together new research and debate on the role and effect of the social fund in relieving poverty, and introduces evidence from the wider European field to allow comparison to be made with other countries' experience of providing a 'safety net' for their poorest citizens. This book opens up for wider discussion the question of how to provide help for disadvantaged groups and individuals at times of financial crisis. Addressing practical questions about how such schemes work (or fail to work) effectively, the book also provides the basis for more general consideration of the overall objectives which they are expected to meet. This will contribute to new thinking about the policy goals of the social fund and other emergency payment schemes, and their role in meeting broader aspirations such as cohesion, inclusion and social justice.