§ Mr. Freeson
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many householders to date have received extra help with heating bills due to the severe winter; what is the total amount involved and how much per householder on average this represents; and if he will break the figures down to show the category of claimant concerned.
§ Mr. Newton
The latest available information is set out in the following table. It is not possible to break the figures down to differentiate the various categories of claimant but they are analysed by DHSS region. The figures were 239W collected as part of a special exercise which will be completed this month. I shall publish the final totals in the Official Report in due course.
Number and amount of supplementary benefit single payments awarded for fuel costs in the period 16 January 1982 to 13 April 1982 DHSS Region Total number of payments Total amount paid Average payment £ £ Northern 18,004 179,993 10.00 Yorkshire and Humberside 20,739 268,705 12.96 East Midlands and East Anglia 17,361 238,263 13.72 London, North 13,764 177,811 12.92 London, South 11,865 120,240 10.13 London, West 8,904 115,558 12.98 South-Western 12,804 181,257 14.16 Wales 16,601 193,094 11.63 West Midlands 31,363 391,058 12.47 NW (Manchester) 15,127 175,387 11.59 Merseyside 18,692 228,425 12.22 Scotland 47,659 717,456 15.05 Great Britain 232,883 2,987,247 12.83
§ Mr. Freeson
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what criteria are currently used to determine whether a housing estate can be designated as hard to heat so allowing heating additions to be made to supplementary benefit householder claimants living there; if he is reviewing the criteria; and if he will make a statement;
(2) what guidance is issued to local benefit officers on the amount of heating additions to be given to supplementary benefit householder claimants living on housing estates that are designated as hard to heat.
§ Mr. Newton
Following the approach of the former Supplementary Benefits Commission in determining whether an estate heating system is disproportionately expensive to run, we look at each case on its merits; the essential test is whether the heating system itself is inherently expensive. The amount of heating addition payable is calculated by the benefit officer, in accordance with paragraph 5 of schedule 3 to the Supplementary Benefit (Requirements) Regulations 1980—SI 1980 No. 1299—with reference to the estimated necessary weekly expenditure on the heating of the home and the notional amount for heating deducted from an inclusive rent in recognition of the provision in the scale rates for normal fuel needs.
We have, however, been considering whether a more specific policy is needed and have made proposals for an amendment to the regulations which is now being considered by the Social Security Advisory Committee. As indicated in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) on 10 May—[Vol. 23, c. 1991]—I have placed a note in the Library of the House summarising the proposed amendment to the regulations and also the manner in which my right hon. Friend proposes to use his discretion to determine which estates have disproportionately expensive heating systems.