HC Deb 06 February 1973 vol 850 cc217-8
18. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the total cost, to the latest available date, of advertising means-tested benefits since 18th June 1970.

Mr. Dean

Family income supplement campaigns in 1971 and 1972 cost £310,000 and £300,000 respectively. An additional £200,000 has been spent advertising other benefits.

Mr. Dormand

Will the Minister confirm that that amount is greater than the amount for any other similar period? Would he agree that in spite of the vast amount being spent on advertising means-tested benefits, there is still great ignorance about them and an alarming lack of take-up? Has not the time arrived when there should be a wholesale investigation into all means-tested benefits?

Mr. Dean

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are taking every step we can to bring to the notice of people who might be eligible the benefits which are available. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, in making his understandable criticism about take-up, will not forget that no fewer than 100,000 families are benefiting from FIS, up to £5 a week.

Mr. Kinsey

My hon. Friend will agree that this is a very good attempt to get the benefits to the people, but it does not seem to be quite working. Could not the professional and voluntary organisations which are working in this field be streamlined to get a better coverage of the whole field?

Mr. Dean

I do not quite accept what my hon. Friend has said. The fact is that take-up is probably half, and maybe over half, of those eligible, and it is very much above half of those who are eligible for the larger amounts. Having said that, we intend to continue perfecting the arrangements so that we can improve take-up.

Mr. William Price

Is the Minister aware that much of this advertising is grossly misleading?

Mr. Dean

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not think it is. If he would care to tell me in what respect he thinks that is so, I shall gladly look at it.

Mr. Price

I will tell the hon. Gentleman.