HC Deb 13 February 1986 vol 91 cc528-9W
Mr. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many payments, and to what value, have been made in Swansea by his Department without verification of entitlement to reimburse applicants in board and lodging accommodation for moneys illegally stopped from them; what is the nature of the evidence he has received that some of these payments may not have been justified; what was the authorisation for uncorroborated payment; how many similar payments and to what value have been made elsewhere in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Newton

Following the Court of Appeal judgment in the Cotton case, the Department took the required steps to ensure that any arrears of supplementary benefit due to claimants would be properly paid without unreasonable delay. In line with normal procedures, the instructions to local offices (circular S4/85, a copy of which is in the Library) required that arrears should be assessed in accordance with information supplied by claimants in their signed statements of claim, subject to further inquiries where this information was considered inaccurate or where the claims had ceased.

I understand that, after arrears payments in Swansea had begun, several landlords came forward and made statements to the effect that they had reduced their charges to claimants. This indicates that the claimants concerned had failed to fulfil their duty to notify the Department of their change of circumstances, either immediately after the change or when specifically reminded to do so in the notification about arrears. Further inquiries are continuing. I understand that the independent adjudication officer is currently looking at cases to determine the questions of overpayment, amounts involved and recovery. I am not aware of any reports of similar overpayments in other offices.

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