§ Mr. George
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many men would fall to be assessed for maintenance by the Supplementary Benefits Commission if the Finer Committee's proposals 394W for guaranteed maintenance allowance were introduced; and how many women would be eligible for guaranteed maintenance allowance, apart from those already receiving supplementary benefit, family income supplement or widows allowance.
§ Mr. Meacher
The Finer Committee envisaged that guaranteed maintenance allowance together with the associated recovery of maintenance would be administered by a separate authority not by the Supplementary Benefit Commission. It is estimated that at any one point in time there are some 430,000 women with a dependent child or children in respect of whom there is prima facie an entitlement to maintenance. Using the Finer Committee's criteria all these women together with 120,000 widows—and 100,000 men—would be eligible for guaraneed maintenance allowance. This total of 650,000 includes those already receiving supplementary benefit—269,000—family income supplement 31,000—widow's allowance—8,000—or widowed mother's allowance—99,000. In the course of a year the authority would have to deal with many more cases than this, since, over a year, a substantial number of women become lone parents often for a short period only. An indication of the volume of work is seen in the fact that claims from such women result in 250,000 regular weekly allowances being put into payment by the Supplementary Benefits Commission each year.
§ Mr. George
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services on what basis she estimates that an extra 8,000 civil servants would be required to administer the guaranteed maintenance allowance suggested in the Finer Report; and by how many the staff would be reduced in the collecting and other offices of the courts following the introduction of guaranteed maintenance allowance.
§ Mr. Meacher
In calculating the manpower required to administer the guaranteed maintenance allowance and the associated system of administrative orders recommended by the Finer Committee it has been assumed that, in any one year, all lone parents with dependent children would claim the benefit, including those who entered that status in the course of the year. In addition the costs 395W take account of the quarterly review of allowances and the action to be taken when entitlement to the allowance ceases. As regards the recovery of maintenance, the staff costs reflect the work involved in making an administrative order, in instituting legal proceedings where the liable relative disputes liability, in references to the appeal tribunal where the liable relative disagrees with the amount of maintenance for which he has been assessed, the conversion of existing court orders into administrative orders, the review and enforcement through the courts of administrative orders and the accounting procedures involved. It is not possible to estimate the reductions in court staff which would arise from the introduction of administrative orders but it would not be significant in relation to the number of civil servants required to operate the guaranteed maintenance allowance.