HC Deb 12 April 1984 vol 58 cc377-8W
Mrs. Beckett

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has referred or intends to refer to the Social Security Advisory Committee proposals to amend the supplementary benefit regulations and their treatment of final earnings in the light of the recent decision of the social security commissoners.

Dr. Boyson

As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Mr. Durant) on 9 April at column118 the Supplementary Benefit (Conditions of Entitlement) Amendment Regulations 1984 were laid before the House on 9 April 1984 and came into effect on 10 April 1984. Because of the urgency they were not referred to the Social Security Advisory Committee before they were made. They have, however, now been referred to the Committee, which I understand, will be consulting outside bodies before reporting on them to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) following the decision by the social security commissioner in the case of Tracy McCormick, if he will seek to contact all those young peole who have been refused supplementary benefit on the grounds that they have been studying for more than 15 hours a week so that their cases may be reviewed;

(2) if he will issue instructions to local offices of his Department informing them of the decision by the social security commissioner in the case of Tracy McCormick and the effects it has on claims for supplementary benefit by young people who study in their first three months on benefits; and if he will publicise the change;

(3) what is the effect of the decision by the social security commissioner in the case of Tracy McCormick on the claims for supplementary benefit of young people who are studying part-time for between 15 and 21 hours a week if those claims were made (a) before the date of the McCormick decision and (b) after that date.

Dr. Boyson

[pursuant to his reply, on 9 April 1984, c. 116]: The question whether a young person claiming supplementary benefit is to be treated as being in relevant education, and therefore excluded from benefit, depends upon whether he is for the purposes of the Child Benefit Act 1975, receiving full-time education, not being advanced education, by attendance at a recognised educational establishment. The appeal to the commissioner in the case of Tracy McCormick was against the decision of the insurance officer, to whom such questions must be referred, that she was in relevant education. In his decision on her appeal the commissioner suggested some general guidelines for the determination of whether education is full-time or part-time.

The decision has been considered for reporting by the social security commissioners but the chief commissioner has decided that it should not be reported; as explained in the practice direction issued in October 1982, reported decisions command the assent of at least a majority of commissioners.

The issue of guidance is a matter for the independent adjudicating authorities. I understand that, having regard to the fact that the present decision was not reported and to the difficulty of reconciling it with the decision of a Trubunal of Commisioners R(SB) 26/82, the chief adjudication officer and the chief supplementary benefit officer have decided not to amend the existing guidance to reflect the views of the commissoner in the present decision.

In these circumstances I do not propose to publicise the decision or take steps to contact previous claimants.