§ 44. Mr. Hal Miller
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what advice he has given to local authorities about charging for home helps.618W
§ Sir George Young
Local authorities have discretionary powers, under paragraph 3 (2) of schedule 8 to the National Health Service Act 1977, to recover from those receiving home help services such charges, if any, as the authority considers reasonable, having regard to the means of the people concerned. The Department's long standing advice to local authorities, dating from 1971, is that the amount of any charge should not be such that a recipient of the service would need, because of that charge, to seek supplementary benefit or an addition to supplementary benefit. Following its decision in February to award no new additions to benefit in respect of home help charges, the Supplementary Benefits Commission has made clear its view that local authorities should exercise their discretionary powers to make charges in such a way as to waive them for people living at supplementary benefit level, or at least so that any charges levied do not impose hardship on such clients. My right hon. Friend does not intend to interfere with local authorities' decisions in such matters.