HC Deb 09 February 1982 vol 17 c852
15. Mr. Sainsb

ury asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will seek to amend the Social Security Supplementary Benefit (Single Payments) Regulations 1981 paragraph 17(1)(b) so that a payment towards the cost of repairs can be made even when the total cost of the repairs exceeds£225.

Mrs. Chalker

No, Sir. I understand my hon. Friend's concern, but the supplementary benefits scheme is not designed to help with major repairs or improvements to the housing stock, and£225 was adopted as a reasonable limit for minor repairs.

Mr. Sainsbury

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is rather absurd that if the total cost of essential repairs is£226, no single payment can be made, but if it is£224 the entire cost can be met by a single payment? Is not the result of that likely to be that some of the more than half a million supplementary benefit recipients who own their homes will be forced to sell up and may well have to be rehoused at far greater cost to the Exchequer?

Mrs. Chalker

Wherever the line is drawn on a limit there will inevitably be problems, but I shall consider the administrative workings of what my hon. Friend said. May I point out to him that we have carried on, in the supplementary benefit scheme, exactly the practice that was carried on by the former Supplementary Benefits Commission, which was that it was not the business of providing supplementary benefit to finance the refurbishment of housing. Local authorities have powers to make maturity loans. Building societies can extend mortgages for major repairs. Housing improvement grants are available, but the commission recognised years ago that loans for small amounts might not be readily available. That was why the practice of exceptional needs payments towards the cost of minor repairs was started and why also it is considered right to meet the interest on repayments if a maturity loan or mortgage is taken out.

Mr. Hooley

Is it true that boys and girls who do 21 hours or less of education a week will in future be denied the chance of drawing supplementary benefit?

Mrs. Chalker

I understand that the chief supplementary benefits officer has considered the regulations that were originally appropriate to take account of the hours worked by sixth formers in schools, who are not in the main entitled to supplementary benefit. As those regulations now apply to a wider group—those who have left school at 16 but who go on to further education—they have been applied in the same way to that group. The current drafting equates with the old system, but I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman said.

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