HC Deb 03 July 1989 vol 156 cc10-1
9. Mrs. Roe

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what changes he has made as a result of monitoring the social security reforms introduced in April last year.

Mr. Scott

The memorandum supplied by the Department to the Select Committee on Social Services on 6 June, copies of which are available in the Library, includes a full list of the major changes we have made.

Mrs. Roe

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply, but what has been done to help 16 and 17-year-olds who are forced to live away from home?

Mr. Scott

I know that my hon. Friend agrees very strongly with the main thrust of the Government's policy towards 16 and 17-year-olds, but the whole House will welcome the fact that 16 and 17-year-olds who have to live away from home will receive a higher rate of income support—the rate normally paid to 18 to 24-year-olds—if they are estranged from their parents. The higher level will also apply to those on housing benefit.

Mr. Pike

Why does not the Minister make at least one further change to help those people on protected payments who were on supplementary benefit before the system was changed and are now on income support, who received absolutely no increase in April? With inflation running at 8.4 per cent. they are considerably worse off. Why does he not make at least one change to help those people?

Mr. Scott

When we introduced the new system, we wanted to get rid of the complexities of the old supplementary benefit system. To avoid the erosion of transitional protection would perpetuate those inequalities and complexities for the future. I am quite sure that we are right to erode it.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Has my right hon. Friend been able to monitor the working of the social fund, particularly the ability of people living on very low incomes to repay loans for items of domestic equipment which go wrong and on which they have to borrow? How can they find £5 a week out of £46 a week?

Mr. Scott

We shall shortly be publishing the first report on the social fund. A report has also been produced by the social fund commissioner herself. There is little evidence to show that people are unable to take up loans from the social fund because of their inability to pay.

Mr. Robin Cook

May I press the Minister on the observation of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) about claimants on transitional protection? Is he aware that figures from his own Department show that next April 200,000 claimants will get no increase as a result of transitional protection? What does he say to the chronically sick claimant who wrote to me because he had just been informed that he would get no increase for another four years? Is it fair to leave a disabled claimant without any increase for seven years in total? What more monitoring do Ministers need before they recognise that in common decency all claimants, whether or not they receive transitional protection, must share in next year's uprating?

Mr. Scott

I still believe that the policy of eroding transitional protection is right. No constituent can know or calculate the number of years that it will take before his transitional protection is entirely eroded. I also remind the House that in October we shall be providing protection for elderly and disabled pensioners which will not affect their transitional protection.