§ Mr. Cohen
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the outcome of the meeting between officials of his Department, the Institute of Housing, and seven leading computer companies about the adequacy of current data processing services available to local authorities for the implementation of the new housing benefit scheme; what amount of money he estimates is needed for new computers, programme design and training; and what sum he has so far proposed to meet this purpose.
§ Mr. Lyell
The meeting referred to was held in order to discuss the draft regulations for the new housing benefit scheme and not to evaluate the implications for local authorities' computer systems of the new scheme. However it did emerge from the discussions that the systems for administering housing benefit are very varied, and individual companies made differing estimates of the extent to which their own particular system would need to be changed. About half the authorities responsible for administering housing benefit do not use any commercially produced systems.
The Government are making available in 1987–88 a cash limited specific grant of £25 million to enable local authorities to prepare for the new housing benefit scheme. Local authorities have been asked to provide by the end of February estimates of the various costs they will need to incur, before final decisions are made on the allocation of the grant.