§ 16. Mr. Keenan
asked the Minister of National Insurance what instructions have been given by his Department, or by the National Assistance Board to his, and their, officials to assist old age and other pensioners and enable them to pay for doctors' prescriptions when sick or disabled and without financial means to pay the 1s. charge demanded.
§ Mr. Peake
This is a matter for the National Assistance Board, whose officers have been instructed to see that pensioners not receiving National Assistance get help with prescription charges if they can show that their resources, by Assistance standards, are insufficient to enable them to meet the charges.
§ Mr. Keenan
Does the Minister appreciate the need, under the new circumstances, for guidance from the Ministry? Is he aware that during the week-end I looked around at Assistance Board offices and chemists' shops to see what help was given to a pensioner not in receipt of assistance? Will he do more than has been done, because pensioners who are not in receipt of National Assistance are not going to the doctor because they cannot afford to pay the 1s.?
§ Mr. T. Brown
Will the Minister and his Department co-operate with the Assistance Board to secure more publicity indicating that those not in receipt of National Assistance can get help if they are in need? At present there is no advertisement in the post offices or in other places and these people have to depend absolutely upon the visits of one of the Assistance Board officers. It is wrong that these people should not be aware that they are in a position to get help if it is needed.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is the Minister aware that there is a further complication in that there are old people who are not able to read and understand forms containing all these instructions? Does he appreciate that it is a great embarrassment to chemists when these old people, who have not the money and do not know much about forms and collecting the 1s., come into their shops? Could not there be something more simple to give help to old age pensionsers so that they can get the 1s. on their pensions card alone?
§ 17. Mr. Janner
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware that there is only one National Assistance Board office to serve the whole of Leicester; and if he will make arrangements to provide branch offices so that applicants for refund of 1s. paid for a prescription may not have to spend as much as 10d., in some cases, for fares to collect 1s.
§ 21. Mrs. Braddock
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is aware that in order to apply for a refund of the 1s. paid for a prescription, a person, not in receipt of supplementation from the National Assistance Board, may have to travel long distances to National Assist- 12 ance Board offices and incur omnibus fares; and, in view of this, will he make arrangements either to have the omnibus fare refunded or arrange for a National Assistance Board visitor to call at applicants' homes to investigate their need.
§ Mr. Peake
It is not necessary for persons seeking a refund of these charges to go to the Board's offices. Those receiving National Assistance can obtain a refund when they draw their weekly payments, generally at the Post Office. Others whose resources are inadequate by Assistance standards to meet the charges can apply to the Board by post on a pre-paid form obtainable at any Post Office, and, if necessary, the Board's officer will visit them.
§ Mr. Janner
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the cost of the postage itself is a reduction from the amount that the person will receive. If so, what does he propose to do about that? Does he propose to send out mobile units or to have peripatetic repayment distributors travelling around the country giving back the 1s.?
§ Mrs. Braddock
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long it would take to visit some of these people who make application by using the form from the Post Office, because if it takes longer than a week they will be without the 1s. for that period? Cannot he arrange for a suitable notice to be placed in post offices to the effect that people can obtain a form for a visit from an officer of the National Assistance Board if they are not in receipt of supplementation and require to have the 1s. refunded?
§ Mrs. Braddock
I was not referring to that notice. Does the Minister realise that people still do not know that they can get payment if they are not in receipt of National Assistance? Is he not aware that some extensive publicity by his Department is needed to make that better known?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Will not the Minister consider what is obviously the best form, that is, to include a form in the pension books issued to people? Can the Minister tell us the additional number of officers the Board will need to employ to do this work?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that though I have seen the notices displayed in chemists' shops, I do not think that they are very clear? They are rather small and difficult for people to see from a distance. Does he realise that the point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) is certainly one which requires examination? Would my right hon. Friend consider making a comprehensive statement on the B.B.C. so that the whole of the procedure may be thoroughly well understood by the people who have to deal with it?
§ Mr. T. Brown
Is the Minister aware that the question arises whether these people can be told how to reclaim the 1s. for the prescription? It is no use putting up a notice in the chemist's shop; the place for the notice is the place where they receive their National Assistance allowance, and that is at the post office. Will the Minister see that notices are displayed in the post offices?