§ Mr. Hooley
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, as a matter of urgency, she will mount an advertising campaign in all national newspapers to make known the discretionary payments such as heating allowances which may be paid to persons on supplementary benefit.
§ Mr. Meacher,
pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 19th February 1976; Vol. 905, c. 830], gave the following information
I would assure my hon. Friend that information on discretionary additions, particularly on extra heating additions, is already made known in a number of ways, and the need for such additions is considered automatically in each new claim to supplementary benefit and on review of every existing case. The number of extra heating additions in November 1974 was 708,000 and by December 1975 is provisionally estimated to have increased to 970,000. We have looked very carefully into my hon. Friend's suggestion, but previous experience shows that newspaper advertising of means-tested benefits is effective only if (a) it is associated with television advertising, which is very costly, and (b) it coincides with a major change such as a benefit uprating. It is of course essential that staff resources should be adequate at the time to deal with the resulting new claims, many of which will inevitably be unsuccessful, so that services to existing beneficiaries will not be adversely affected. In the light of these considerations we have no immediate plans for a national advertising campaign, but will keep my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind for a time when the conditions as stated are met.