§ Lord Avebury
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is the policy of the Department of Health and Social Security regarding the payment of supplementary benefit to persons whose command of English makes it unlikely that they will find gainful employment, and what is the statutory authority for this policy.
§ Lord Elton
It is the policy of the Department to make payments of supplementary benefit to all persons who are entitled to them under the regulations. Under Section 5 of the Supplementary Benefits Act 1976, persons claiming benefit who are of working age (with certain exceptions prescribed by regulations) are required to register and to be available for employment. The regulations do not exempt claimants from these requirements solely because their English is poor, though under Regulation 6(k) of the Supplementary Benefit (Conditions of Entitlement) Regulations there are special and specific provisions for newly arrived refugees who need to attend classes for more than 15 hours per week in order to learn English, so as to fit themselves for employment.
In accordance with Regulation 7(1) of the Supplementary Benefit (Conditions of Entitlement) Regulations a claimant is to be treated as available for employment if he is available to be employed within the meaning of Section 17(1)(a)(i) of the Social Security Act 1975 or regulations made under it. These regulations do not include any specific provisions about claimants who do not speak English. It is for the independent adjudicating authorities to decide on the facts of each case whether a claimant is or is not available for work, and therefore whether the conditions imposed by this legislation are satisfied. There is a right of appeal to an independent appeal tribunal against any such decision, and a further right of appeal to the Social Security Commissoners against the tribunal's decision.