HC Deb 14 November 1972 vol 846 cc202-4
12. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will seek powers to afford automatic entitlement to exemption from, or help with, prescription and dental charges to those in receipt of invalidity allowance, in the same way as those receiving supplementary pension, supplementary allowance and family income supplement are so entitled.

Mr. Alison

No, Sir. Anyone whose income is, by supplementary benefit standards, insufficient to enable him to afford these charges is already entitled to exemption or help.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the prescription needs of those who are in receipt of invalidity allowances are usually greater than those of other people? Would not automatic entitlement deal with this problem, and also with the anomalous situation of the wife of a severely disabled husband who has to go out to work to earn her own support and whose earnings disqualify the husband from exemption from prescription charges?

Mr. Alison

As my hon. Friend knows, the invalidity benefit is an insurance payment and is therefore in no sense geared to the financial needs of the recipient. In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, my hon. Friend probably knows that the supplementary benefit level can be exceeded quite substantially in assessing needs where dental problems arise.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is the Minister aware that every police officer and every Army, Navy and Air Force officer from the highest to the lowest paid is entitled to these benefits? Surely people in receipt of an invalidity allowance should be entitled to equal treatment?

Mr. Alison

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that Army, Navy and Air Force officers have such financial needs, which is the implication of his supplementary question.

Mr. Lewis

No. I am merely saying that they get these benefits.

Mr. Alison

The point is that every person in financial need gets considerable help, particularly with dental treatment, although his income may be quite substantially above supplementary benefit level.

Mr. Marks

Will the Minister reconsider his refusal to exempt from prescrip- tion charges children who are now kept on at school compulsorily until they are 16? Some of the families of these children are suffering hardship and it would be of great help if the exemption were to be tied to the school leaving age as it has been previously.

Mr. Alison

I will certainly look into the implications of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question.