HC Deb 12 June 1984 vol 61 cc750-2
10. Mr. Loyden

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give the number of people on supplementary benefit, office by office, in Liverpool at the present time.

Dr. Boyson

Liverpool local offices are paying supplementary benefit to 195,600 claimants at present. With permission, I will provide the office-by-office figures in the Official Report.

Mr. Loyden

I am over here. Is it not scandalous that the Government, instead of encouraging those who are entitled to benefits to claim them, have brought into Merseyside an army of snoopers, which is having the opposite effect on people who are entitled to benefit? Will he support the action taken by the Merseyside county council in promoting its take-up campaign, which has produced evidence that this is the case?

Dr. Boyson

I am sorry that I did not look at the hon. Gentleman when I was replying. I was looking at other Liverpool Members to bring them into our conversation. As about 25 per cent. of the households in Liverpool are receiving supplementary benefit, one cannot say that the DHSS there is too harsh on its administration. One in four is a fair factor. I do not know how many people from the special claims unit of the Department have been in Liverpool, but I shall look into this matter and write to the hon. Gentleman about it.

Mr. Parry

Have not people on supplementary benefits been badly affected by the policies of this Government and in particular by the introduction of VAT on take-away meals? This affects pensioners, single-parent families and large families on supplementary benefit. In Liverpool, I know of cases where take-away shops have experienced a drop of between 20 and 25 per cent. in their takings because people cannot afford to pay for these meals.

Dr. Boyson

The hon. Gentleman's question about VAT is one for the Treasury. On supplementary benefit, I remind him that the value of the purchasing power of supplementary benefit is 5 per cent. higher than it was when we came into office and for children under five and between five and 12 there has been a 27 per cent. increase in real terms in the value of supplementary benefit.

Mrs. Beckett

Will the Minister answer the question put to him in the first place by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden)? The Minister said casually that the fact that one in four households can claim benefit proves that the system is generous. Whether they are getting their full entitlement is quite another matter, particularly considering the way that the Government consistently fiddle the regulations and even take illegal action. Will the Minister welcome the action taken by Merseyside county council?

Dr. Boyson

The hon. Member for Garston (Mr. Loyden) asked me how many people were drawing supplementary benefit in Liverpool and I gave that figure —the actual figure down to single numbers was given, which shows this Government's grip on administration. Merseyside and Liverpool had a take-up of 600,000 cards, which went out last year, if my memory serves me right, and an increase in take-up came from that. Although largely single payments were made, that was at least a help.

Following are the figures:

Supplementary benefit claimants
Belle Vale 13.6
Birkenhead North 16.2
Birkenhead South 9.8
Garston 9.2
Huyton 14.7
Kirby 15.6
Norris Green 8.5
St. Helens 18.4
Toxteth 13.5
Wallasey 11.1
Wavertree 7.9
West Derby 10.0
Bootle 12.8
Breckfield 14.4
City 9.2
Crosby 10.7
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