§ 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?
§ 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 11 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. 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.