HC Deb 14 June 1978 vol 951 cc994-5
11. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he intends to take in order to encourage the take-up of rent allowances.

Mr. Armstrong

In addition to the existing measures of promotion by central and local government, which have produced a steady and substantial rise in take-up over the last four years, I have commissioned new studies and am preparing further guidance to local authorities.

Mr. Jessel

As the take-up rate for rent allowance is only about 30 per cent. still, and as the private rented sector has a far larger proportion of poor and old people relative to other sectors of housing, does not this mean that a lot of people are suffering hardship who are unaware of their rights to rent allowances? Why are the Government so slack about doing something energetic to inform tnese people of their rights?

Mr. Armstrong

The hon. Member is out of date about the take-up. In the past two years, ending April 1977, there was a rise of between 30 per cent. and 35 per cent to 50 per cent. and 55 per cent. in the unfurnished sector. We are glad about that, but we are far from satisfied. We issue a leaflet each year and I have commissioned a study to discover why people are not applying for their entitlement to rent allowances.

Mr. Sainsbury

Does the Minister agree that the existence of a scheme of rent allowances makes it seem illogical to hold down so severely the level of rents in the private rented sector, which has the inevitable effect of discouraging a valuable supply of homes?

Mr. Armstrong

That matter is being considered in the Rent Act review.

Mr. Loyden

Will my hon. Friend consider the confusion that exists among many tenants about the difference between a rent rebate from a local authority and a rent allowance from the DHSS? Is he aware that in many cases one bestows an advantage compared with the other? Will he see what can be done, so that a tenant is properly informed either of the advantage of a rebate or the advantage of a DHSS allowance?

Mr. Armstrong

That is a difficult matter. We find that tenants are confused, which is why I have commissioned more research to find out whether we can simplify matters.