§ 5. Mr. John Evans
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the progress of his Department's publicity campaign to increase take-up of social security fund grants and loans.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
We will shortly publish information material on the social fund to improve awareness among those who have the greatest need for these payments and, most importantly, their advisers.
§ Mr. Evans
That is all very interesting, but of what benefit has all that expensive advertising been to a 55-year-old unemployed male constituent of mine? He lives alone, has recently been refused the higher level of benefit and is now forced to exist on £35.52 a week. Is that not a classic case of the poor getting poorer?
§ Mr. Lloyd
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I cannot discuss a particular case at the Dispatch Box. If he wishes to get in touch with me about it, I should be happy for him to do so.
As the hon. Gentleman knows very well, there has been no expensive advertising for most of the benefits that are available. They are very well taken up. We are running right up to profile on the budgets for the social fund, which has become well known and is doing a good job.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
Does my hon. Friend agree that, although it must be right to target money where it is most needed, the problem of targeting is that most social security offices, certainly in Birmingham, are much under spent because people need almost an honours degree to know what they can claim? Does my hon. Friend also agree that saving people distress is much more important than saving money and that, if we are to get the changes truly right, we must ensure that people know what they have a right to and that the appropriate people obtain the care that is so desperately needed?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Let me answer the general point by saying that £9 of every £10 of social security benefits is claimed. As for the social fund, I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important for people to know what is on offer, and that they are entitled to it. The information material to which I referred in my answer to the main question is designed to ensure that groups with a particular entitlement to the social fund know exactly how far it extends and what is available to them.