HC Deb 11 December 1979 vol 975 cc1067-8
18. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Socal Services whether he has any plans to reorganise the operation of the child benefit scheme.

27. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied that his Department's computer centre in Washington, Co. Durham is now working satisfactorily; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker

Most of the arrears of work at the child benefit centre caused by industrial action have now been cleared. We are, nevertheless, continuing to examine ways of improving the system.

Mr. Knox

Can my hon. Friend tell us how many people who should be receiving child benefit are not receiving it, for administrative reasons?

Mrs. Chalker

At this moment I cannot give my hon. Friend an exact figure. However, anyone who is entitled to child benefit and whose payment is held up by the continuance of the ban on overtime at the child benefit centre should go to his local office, where there are special arrangements for paying those who are in urgent need of that money.

Mr. Freeson

Will the hon. Lady tell the House whether, in pursuit of improving the operation of the child benefit scheme, it is the Government's intention to undertake an uprating of child benefit in April? Is she aware that if an affirmative answer is not given now it will be too late to operate the improvement?

Mrs. Chalker

The right hon. Gentleman knows, from previous exchanges in the House, that I amnot at present in a position to give him an answer to that question. He knows full well that the increase of £1 last April, followed in November by our special increase in the level of support for children in one-parent families, where the parent is unable to work or has no earnings, and for working lone parents is the most that the country could afford at present. As we are required to do, we shall undertake a further review in the coming months.