HC Deb 07 November 1950 vol 480 cc760-1
31 and 32. Mr. Summers

asked The Minister of National Insurance (1) what proportion of the payments made to persons starting work and applying for assistance pending payment of wages are subsequently recovered from the applicant;

(2) what instructions have been issued or what policy is adopted to determine whether payments made to persons starting work and applying for assistance pending payment of wages shall subsequently be recovered; and what steps are taken to find out if a temporary advance has been granted by the employer.

Dr. Summerskill

Before granting such assistance, the Board's officers satisfy themselves, by inquiry from employers if necessary, whether an advance of wages will be made. The Board are empowered to recover assistance granted in such circumstances to meet urgent need only in so far as payments cover days beyond the end of a period, generally seven to 10 days from the start of work. Assistance paid for days beyond the prescribed period is ordinarily recovered, unless repayment would cause hardship. Details are not available, but the proportion of recoveries is small.

33. Mr. Goronwy Roberts

asked The Minister of National Insurance if she will consider revising the regulations governing the award of National Assistance so as to help beneficiaries, particularly old age pensioners, to meet the cost of living.

Dr. Summerskill

I must remind my hon. Friend that improvements in the scales of National Assistance approved by this House came into force as recently as June of this year.

Mr. Roberts

Will not the Minister give an assurance that, in view of the probable rise in the cost of living during the next months, this matter will be constantly kept under review and sympathetically dealt with? Further, is she aware that, although she has given instructions that administratively her officers should deal sympathetically with applications, unless the scales are revised it will be impossible for them to do so?

Dr. Summerskill

I would remind my hon. Friend that officers of the National Assistance Board are allowed to exercise very wide discretion.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a tendency now to restrict the discretion of the area officers in dealing with assistance cases and to refer their decisions to the regional district officers before communications are made to hon. Members?

Dr. Summerskill

I will certainly look into that if my lion. Friend will give me a case that he has in mind.