HC Deb 19 July 1977 vol 935 cc444-5W
Mr. Moonman

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take additional steps to publicise in simple terms social service benefit entitlements, for example, by arranging for the distribution of explanatory leaflets to the homes of all disabled, handicapped and registered unemployed persons; how many such people he estimates currently fail to take up their entitlement; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alfred Morris

I take it that my hon. Friend has in mind both social security benefits and health and personal social services. Summary information, indicating the broad lines of what is available, is provided by my Department in the general leaflet "Help for Handicapped People". I understand from social services departments that the leaflet is issued by them to newly registered disabled people. Leaflets on individual cash benefits give further detailed information. Our aim is to make the leaflets as simple and intelligible as possible, without making the information given either inadequate or misleading. Leaflets sent to a person claiming one benefit draw attention to certain other benefits to which he or she may also be entitled. As regards registered unemployed people, information is available at the appropriate offices about benefits and services likely to be relevant.

Local authorities in many cases have themselves produced and distributed leaflets about local services.

A general statement about take-up would not be very meaningful, because of the wide variation between different benefits and the very large number of benefits. Moreover, where non-means-tested cash benefits are concerned, there is no evidence of any substantial shortfall in claims. We are, of course, very concerned to ensure that anyone entitled to a benefit receives it from the earliest moment from which he or she becomes entitled. To this end we are keeping the whole question of publicity for benefits and services for handicapped people under review; and I shall be glad to consider any particular suggestions my hon. Friend may wish to put to me.