HC Deb 08 February 1999 vol 325 cc19-20
14. Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston)

What recent representations he has received on the benefit integrity project. [68019]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Hugh Bayley)

We have received representations on various aspects of the benefit integrity project, from a variety of sources, including through discussions with the disability benefits forum. We have listened to those representations. On 28 January, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that the project would be cancelled from 31 March 1999 and replaced with a new, fairer system of periodic review.

Maria Eagle

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's reply, and many of my constituents who have come across the benefit integrity project will be grateful for its abolition, but they will also be concerned about what is to replace it. Can he assure the House that the new review system will deal much more with the individual needs of claimants instead of simply trying to force everybody on to the same form, creating all kinds of problems?

Mr. Bayley

Yes, we can give that assurance. The new system will be fairer because, unlike the system that we inherited from the Conservatives, it will allow benefits to be increased as well as decreased. It most certainly will consider the claimant's individual needs; the agency will have a much more personalised approach. The review process that we inherited for the benefit integrity project was designed by the Conservatives; we are developing the new process in consultation with the disability lobby, through members of that lobby on the disability benefits forum.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

I understand that Ministers have said that some people are receiving disability living allowance who apparently have no medical reason for doing so. What is the Minister's estimate of the number involved, and how great is the problem?

Mr. Bayley

In perhaps about a third of the cases reviewed, the evidence was not there. I cannot be more precise than that because, as the hon. Lady will know, some cases are still under review through the adjudication system and the appeals system.