HC Deb 10 March 1981 vol 1000 cc287-8W
Dr. Roger Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will devise methods of increasing the uptake of single-parent child allowance in view of the fact that in some areas uptake is between 50 and 60 per cent.; and what evidence he has that many persons do not apply because they know that obtaining the allowance will lead to an immediate reduction in supplementary benefit if claimed.

Mrs. Chalker

A wide variety of measures are already taken to bring child benefit increase (CB(I)) to the attention of lone parents:

a box has been included in the maternity benefit claim form for a person to indicate whether she wishes to claim CB(I);

lone parents who cease to be entitled to supplementary benefit are, unless they already receive CB(I), given a CB(I) claim form and are advised to claim;

a CB(I) claim form is issued when the child benefit centre or a local office becomes aware that a parent receiving child benefit has become separated or divorced;

a CB(I) claim form is issued when child benefit records show that a wife has died leaving the husband to bring up the children;

Child benefit centre sends a letter drawing attention to CB(I) whenever a person who appears to be a lone parent claims child benefit;

when a lone parent claims family income supplement and does not indicate on the claim form that he is receiving CB(I), a note about it is included with the family income supplement decision sent to him;

CB(I) is mentioned in the child benefit order book notes;

a variety of DHSS leaflets carry a reference to child benefit increase and, as they are reprinted, more will do so;

local authority social workers, health service personnel and secretaries of relevant voluntary organisations are co-operating by making a point of bringing CB(I) to the attention of lone parents with whom they have contact;

the CB(I) poster and claim forms are in local authority social service departments, ante-natal and child health clinics, divorce courts and citizens advice bureaux. Copies have also gone to a number of other voluntary organisations;

the CB(I) poster is displayed in doctors' surgeries, health centres and law centres as well as in post offices and local offices of DHSS.

The take-up of this benefit is disappointing. As I announced in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major) on 22 January—[Vol. 997, c. 214-215]—we have decided to change the name from"child benefit increase" to"one parent benefit". The new name will be introduced next month. I hope that this will help lone parents to realise that the benefit is for them and that they will claim it, thus improving take-up.

With regard to supplementary benefit claimants, the latest available figures—(November 1979)—showed that of 320,000 one-parent families receiving supplementary benefit, 93,000 were receiving CB(I). This low number is probably due in most cases to the knowledge that claiming CB(I) when in receipt of supplementary benefit does not lead to any financial gain. However, as item 2 above indicates, lone parents not receiving CB(I) when they cease to be entitled to supplementary benefit are given a CB(I) claim form, and are advised to claim.