§ Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether the reductions in staff will affect future benefit campaigns to encourage take-up;
(2) what future campaigns are planned to encourage the take up of benefits.
§ Mr. Newton
[pursuant to his reply 23 June 1982, c. 127]: The Government's policy is to do everything practicable to bring the availability of social security benefits to the notice of the public by a continuing wide range of measures supplemented by "one-off' exercises, having regard to the resources needed to handle the resulting claims. For example, we have sent individual letters to 255,000 people whose child benefit books were in one name only and who might, therefore, have been eligible for one-parent benefit; this resulted in 8,000 more one-parent families getting an additional £3.30 a week. The letter also covered family income supplement. By the end of February 1982, the number of FIS awards had reached 137,000; this included 65,000 one-parent families.
On supplementary benefit, a range of take-up measures now includes issue of the leaflet SB1 to unemployed claimants; and we are now extending this to recipients of sickness benefit after eight weeks benefit. All retirement pensioners and widows are invited to claim. Leaflets and posters are on display at post offices and in our local offices. Our policy is to co-operate as fully as possible at local level with campaigns run by local authorities, provided they are well-targeted and do not lead to fruitless work or disrupt the flow of benefits to claimants. Such co-operation has recently taken place in Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Cleveland and is planned in Brighton. The hon. Lady may also he interested to know that Greenock local office is mounting a take-up campaign of its own.
A pictorial insert advertising one-parent benefit and FIS is now being included in all child benefit order books; this enables us constantly to reach all families with children. We are seeking the help of local authorities, employers and trades unions in publicising FIS; and the benefit will be advertised again on television and in the press at the coming uprating. We are also experimenting with the use of microcomputers in the provision of information on benefits.