HC Deb 19 July 1977 vol 935 cc429-30W
45. Mr. Durant

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement regarding the disqualification from sickness benefit caused by late claims, since no specific time limits are mentioned on forms issued by the Department of Health and Social Security.

Mr. Deakins

Time limits for claiming incapacity benefits have existed since the start of the scheme. They are necessary because inevitably some of the millions of claims for sickness and invalidity benefit made each year are not well-founded, and action for the proper control of claims can only be taken if the Department is aware of the incapacity at an early stage. The National Insurance Advisory Committee has considered the question of time limits on several occasions.

There are various time limits for claiming sickness benefit—within 21 days of the day for which benefit is claimed in the case of a first-ever claim to benefit, within six days for the first claim in any subsequent spell of incapacity, and within 10 days for continuation claims in the same spell of incapacity. There are also special rules for claims from hospital patients and in respect of dependants. These time limits can be extended by the independent adjudicating authorities where good cause for the delay in claiming can be shown.

A warning that benefit may be lost if not claimed promptly is printed in red on the benefit claim form Med 3 and a corresponding but fuller warning is included in the BF11P—a form giving general notes for guidance issued with the first payment of benefit. To go into further detail and set out comprehensively the various time limits which apply would be impracticable in the space available on the Med 3, and, while possible in the case of the BF11P, might be confusing, both because of the detail involved and because benefit will not in fact be lost if good cause for delay can be shown. The BF11P was pruned some years ago because of the evidence that lengthy forms were simply counterproductive. Information on the time limits for claiming benefit is given in the sickness benefit leaflet which is freely available from the Department. I am satisfied that the simple unequivocal warning which appears on forms at present is the most appropriate means of warning people against delay.