HC Deb 15 January 1985 vol 71 c173
5. Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the present arrangements for dealing with single payment claims by his Department.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Ray Whitney)

We are broadly satisfied with the existing arrangements, given the complexity of the regulations, but one of the aims of the social security reviews to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has referred is to simplify and improve the working of supplementary benefit generally.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept that, in the main, the people applying for single payments are the most deprived and the most in need of urgent assistance? Does he really expect them to wait for a Government review? Does he agree that urgent action should be taken to ensure that it is made easier for those people to obtain the help that they need immediately, without having to wait?

Mr. Whitney

I am satisfied that the regulations are being applied efficiently and with urgency where appropriate. The appeals system is also working effectively. Nevertheless, we recognise that there is reason for improvement. That is why we have launched the reviews of the social security system which, as my right hon. Friend said, are somewhat overdue.

Mr. Howard

A few moments ago my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security described the emergency heating regulations which form part of the single payment regulations as "weird and wonderful". Does my hon. Friend accept that they should be examined with some urgency? In particular, will he investigate the reason for the exclusion from the arrangements announced yesterday of Kent and, in particular, my constituency, which is among the areas worst affected? Will he ensure that the regulations are brought into some discernible relationship with reality?

Mr. Whitney

As my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security acknowledged, we recognise the complexities of this, but I refer my hon. and learned Friend to the criteria published in the "S Manual", which is available in the Library.