HC Deb 06 December 1985 vol 88 cc400-1W
Mrs. Peacock

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if Her Majesty's Government intend to introduce new supplementary benefit regulations relating to extra heating payments; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Newton

The main forms of help for supplementary benefit claimants in meeting their heating costs are the weekly scale rates, which are intended to cover normal living expenses generally, and an extensive range of regular weekly "heating additions" giving substantial extra help to claimants, including all supplementary pensioner householders over 65, whose circumstances may be expected to give rise to a need for extra expenditure on heating.

Both the scale rates and the heating additions have been increased in the recent uprating; for example, a supplementary pensioner householder over 65 now qualifies for a heating addition of at least £2.20 a week, and a supplementary pensioner householder over 85 for a heating addition of at least £5.45 a week. We have no other immediate proposals to change these amounts or the regulations governing them. My hon. Friend will, however, be aware of the social security Green Paper proposals under which expenditure on heating additions would be included in the resources available for the proposed income support scheme, and the pattern of heating additions would be taken into account in setting the income support premiums for pensioners and other groups.

Alongside these major provisions, the supplementary benefit regulations also provide for single payments to claimants who experience extra fuel costs arising from exceptionally severe weather. I understand that the chief adjudication officer is today issuing revised guidance to adjudication officers on the operation of this regulation, following a recent ruling by the social security commissioners. We are continuing to consider the provision very carefully in the light of the commissioner's decision and the chief adjudication officer's guidance. A copy of the guidance is being placed in the Library.