HC Deb 01 August 1972 vol 842 cc80-2W
71. Mr. John D. Grant

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what reply he has sent to the letter from Task Force, dated 14th July, concerning the heating needs of old people, and, in particular, the organisation's request for help from local offices of the Department of Health and Social Security in collecting information about applications for heating allowances made by old people.

Sir K. Joseph

My reply describes the Supplementary Benefits Commission's general policy on the disclosure of information to third parties, and sets out the extent to which the Commission is prepared to give information about individual cases in response to the request by Task Force. I am sending the hon. Member a copy.

Mr. John D. Grant

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) how many supplementary pensioners were awarded heating allowances between 1st October, 1971 and 31st March, 1972; and how many applications were refused;

(2) how many supplementary pensioners have been awarded heating allowances since implementation of that benefit in November, 1970.

Mr. Dean

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the exceptional circumstances additions made in supplementary benefit cases where there are special heating needs. I regret that this information is not available, and could not be obtained without undue expense. At November, 1971, the latest date for which figures are available, 159,000 supplementary pensioners had exceptional circumstances additions which included provision for extra heating.

It has always been the Supplementary Benefits Commission's policy, under its discretionary powers, to increase benefit on account of special heating needs in appropriate cases; the changes made in November, 1970 represented a broadening of the existing arrangements.

Mr. John D. Grant

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many of the 47 old people specifically referred to in the report, "Old and Cold in Islington", a copy of which in his possession, in respect of heating allowances, have subsequently received separate grants to assist them with improved heating by such methods as bigger fires and better insulation.

Mr. Dean

Lump-sum payments of supplementary benefit were made for more effective heating appliances in six of these cases. In five others the weekly allowance was increased to provide for greater expenditure on heating, and one payment was made to clear an outstanding fuel debt.