§ Mr. Bob Dunn
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether the Social Security Policy Inspectorate has completed its study of the operation of the Supplementary Benefit (Single Payments) Regulations; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Newton
The social security policy inspectorate has completed its study, which forms part of the Department's monitoring of the changes in the supplementary benefit scheme introduced in 1980, and is designed to complement external research — not yet completed— into single payments. While it found the expected teething problems, the inspectorate detected no major deficiencies in the new regulated system of single payments and were encouragingly optimistic about its future. It found that the standard of work in local offices on single payments was generally high.
The report suggests a number of changes, all of which have either been implemented or are being considered by the Department. The main suggestions are as follows. First, the inspectorate found that the standard of work on cases where a single payment was refused was less good than on those where a single payment was awarded. It recommended that refusals should be subject to the same monitoring and control as awards. Since the inspectorate carried out the field work for its enquiry, towards the end of 1981, the Department has introduced new and more structured procedures for dealing with single payment claims including those which are unsuccessful. The inspectorate's recommendation on monitoring and control will be considered further in the light of experience of these new procedures.
Secondly, the inspectorate recommended that more copies of the regulations should be available in local offices. This has been done; over 850 extra copies of the "Yellow Book" containing all the supplementary benefit regulations were distributed to local offices in 1982.
Finally, the inspectorate concluded that guidance on the interpretation of some of the single payment regulations was needed from the chief supplementary benefit officer. Further guidance has now been issued on a number of the regulations, and is being incorporated in the new "S manual" to be published in June.
I have arranged for copies of the inspectorate's report to be placed in the Library of the House. Copies have also been sent to the social security advisory committee. In view of the widespread interest in the single payments regulations, I have decided to publish the report and copies are available to the public (price £1.70) from my Department's leaflet unit at Canons Park.