HC Deb 26 July 1979 vol 971 cc472-4W
Miss Richardson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, further to his answer to the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave)—Official Report, 11 June, c.111-2—how many lone parents on supplementary benefit have a child or children who receive maintenance payments under a court order at a level which extinguishes their right to supplementary benefit for that child; by how much on average the payment exceeds the scale rate in these cases; how many of the total number he regards as artificial; and at what rate the total number is increasing.

(2) how many claimants assessed under the current policy will receive no more money on 12 November because of the transitional arrangements he has announced.

Mr. Prentice

I regret that the information in the form requested is not available. However, between December 1976 and June 1979, 668 cases were reported where, in assessing a family's entitlement to supplementary benefit, the requirements and resources of a child were excluded because the amount of a maintenance order payable to that child exceeded its supplementary benefit scale rate. During this period, the average number of such cases reported each month was as follows:

December 1976 to May 1978 8
June 1978 to November 1978 26
December 1978 to June 1979 53

No detailed analysis is kept to show by how much on average the amount of the maintenance order exceeded the scale rate in these cases, but it is known that in 24 cases it amounted to more than £10 weekly. No estimate can be given of the number of orders which may have been artificially arranged, nor of the number of claimants who will receive no increase on 12 November because of the change in policy announced on 11 June.

Miss Richardson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, further to the reply—Official Report, 11 June—if he will set out in theOfficial Report the detailed reasoning and calculations on which he based his statement on that date that, had the policy change referred to not been implemented The loss to public funds would have reached something like £10 million a year within two or three years."—[Official Report 11 June 1979; Vol. 968 c.112.]

Mr. Prentice

This is a broad but conservative estimate based on such considerations as the increase in maintenance orders made payable to children in divorce proceedings from 100 a month in 1976 to 2,409 in June 1979; the recent growth in the publicity given by voluntary organisations to the potential advantage in obtaining maintenance orders made payable to children; and the theoretically possible loss of some £30 million per year if all maintenance orders in respect of children were made payable to them.

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