HC Deb 29 June 1979 vol 969 cc361-2W
Mr. Field

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he plans to increase the income eligibility limits for free prescriptions and remission of dental charges in the light of the increase in price.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

By raising the tolerance margin, which sets the income limits for low income exemption from prescription charges, from 30p, the level set in 1971, to 65p I shall enable over a quarter of a million more households to

Category Estimated number eligible Beneficiaries Take-up
000 000 per cent.
Supplementary benefit beneficiaries 328 325 99
FIS beneficiaries 50 50 100
Other low income beneficiaries 1,518 13 0.8
Beneficiaries in large young families and certain handicapped children 90 74 82

Information about free milk and vitamins is published by means of an improved leaflet (MV1) which is displayed at child health clinics with a related poster. The leaflet includes a claim form to be used by families on low income, apart from those receiving supplementary benefit or FIS, who may be eligible for tokens. Advertisements about free milk and vitamins for low income families are also published in baby books issued to mothers at clinics and hospital maternity units.

The Department has just produced a TV filler, publicising free milk and vitamins, for distribution to, and transmission by, television companies.

Take-up of exemption from prescription charges on grounds of supplementary benefit or FIS entitlement is thought to be almost universal where there is no other form of entitlement. It is estimated that the take-up of exemption on other claim exemption. I have no plans at present to increase the tolerance margin for dental treatment, which was last increased in 1976. However, when charges for dental treatment are increased it follows automatically that more people will be entitled to help with such charges if they claim. The limits will also increase automatically when supplementary benefit rates, by which low income exemption claims are assessed, increase this November.