HC Deb 31 March 1983 vol 40 cc257-8W
Mr. Squire

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people were in receipt of supplementary benefit in December 1982, divided into the usual categories of claimants; and what was the total number dependent on supplementary benefit.

Mr. Newton

Provisional figures for the number of people in receipt of supplementary benefit at December 1982 are as follows. I regret that information on the total number dependent on supplementary benefit at that time is not yet available.

All supplementary benefit 4,254
All supplementary pensions 1,779
Retirement Pensioners and widows 1,694
Others 85
All supplementary allowances 2,475
Unemployed with unemployment benefit 284
Unemployment without unemployment benefit 1,433
Sick 237
Widows under 60 16
Single parents not in other groups 420
Others 85

Source: Quarterly Statistical Enquiry December 1982 (provisional figures).

Mrs. Knight

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has submitted to the Social Security Advisory Committee the draft supplementary benefit regulation to which the Under-Secretary of State referred in his reply to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston on 22 March, Official Report, Vol. 39, c. 399.

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend has submitted to the Social Security Advisory Committee for its consideration the draft Supplementary Benefit (Requirements, Resources and Single Payments) Amendment Regulations 1983 and the draft Supplementary Benefit (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1983. These largely give effect to the proposals which my right hon. Friend submitted to the committee earlier this month, and to which I referred in my earlier reply. They also give effect to additional changes, including some which were announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Statement on 15 March.

The main additional changes are:

  1. i. periods in receipt of invalidity benefit and other long-term incapacity benefits will count towards the qualifying period for eligibility to the long-term rate of supplementary benefit—this will solve the so-called 'invalidity trap';
  2. ii. the first £1,500 of the surrender value of life assurance policies will be disregarded for the purpose of the supplementary benefit capital rule;
  3. iii. single people without accommodation will be entitled to meals allowances rather than the supplementary benefit non-householder rate, an increase from £2.95 to £3.65 a day;
  4. iv. the limit on the value of repairs to owner-occupied homes which can be met by a single payment will be increased from £225 to £325;
  5. v. various provisions for single payments will be extended to include members of the assessment unit other than the claimant;
  6. vi. the gap between periods on benefit which count towards the 52 week qualifying period for the long-term scale rate will be reduced from 13 weeks to 8 weeks;
  7. vii. the supplementary benefit status of students who claim benefit during the vacation w ill be determined according to their actual housing needs at the date of claim, irrespective of any liability in respect of term-time accommodation that they are no longer occupying.

Further details of the additional changes are contained in a note which I have placed in the Vote Office, together with the two sets of draft regulations.

Apart from the two changes which were announced in the Budget Statement—the removal of the invalidity trap (cost around £10 million a year) and the disregard of the first £1,500 of life assurance policies (cost around £50,000 a year)—the effect on public expenditure of the proposed amendments contained in the two sets of draft regulations is expected to be broadly neutral. The proposals which would result in increased benefit expenditure are estimated to cost about £2.1 million a year at current benefit rates.

The chief items amongst these are the payment of benefit at a higher rate to single homeless people, which is estimated to cost about £1.3 million a year, and the increase to £325 of the upper limit on single payments for repairs, which will cost about £0.4 million a year. The increased costs would be covered by the reduction in benefit expenditure (again about £2.1 million a year) which would result from other of the proposed amendments. The chief items amongst these are the proposed change in the linking rules for the qualifying period for the long-term scale rate (about £1 million a year), and the changes in the circumstances in which voluntary unemployment deductions are reduced from 40 per cent. to 20 per cent. (about £0.7 million a year).

When we have received and considered the committee's report my right hon. Friend proposes to lay the regulations before the House, modified as he may consider appropriate in the light of the committee's recommendations, with a view to securing their passage through Parliament before the summer recess. My right hon. Friend will also lay before Parliament a copy of the committee's report on the regulations and a statement in accordance with the provisions of section 10(4) of the Social Security Act 1980.

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