HC Deb 26 July 1990 vol 177 cc494-5W
Mr. Ian Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what independent research he is proposing into the way in which the benefit provisions for 16 and 17-year-olds are working.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

We have carefully considered the representations from various individuals and organisations about the benefit provision for 16 and 17-year-olds.

From the evidence so far presented, we have not been persuaded of the need to make any major changes to existing arrangements. However, we want to ensure that we fully understand how young people are affected. For this we need statistically reliable information on how the income support rules are working in practice, and I am pleased to announce that, on the basis of a competitive tendering exercise, a contract has been awarded to the research agency MORI to undertake independent wide-ranging research into this area.

The research will have two main elements. First, it will look at a representative sample of 500 successful and unsuccessful applications for income support under the "severe hardship" provisions. This will provide information on young people's understanding and attitudes towards the benefit system, their experience of training and the labour market and what happens to them after a "severe hardship" application has been decided.

Secondly, the survey will collect detailed qualitative data on young people's experience of the benefit system. It will also offer some insight into the effect benefit withdrawal has had on the likelihood of young people leaving home. It will gain information on the circumstances and particular difficulties facing groups of special interest, including girls in the early stages of pregnancy and young people leaving local authority care.

The MORI survey will be complemented by research that the Training Agency will undertake to ascertain what happens to "severe hardship" applicants who have applied to enter a youth training place.

The research will start shortly and will complement the monitoring arrangements already operated by the Department and the Training Agency. These have led us to make a number of helpful adjustments to our procedures over the last 12 months and to improve the support for certain vulnerable groups. We expect the results from the research early in 1991.

Table 1 Housing benefit recipients and average benefit amounts
Number of recipients (000s) Average amounts £
With income support Without income support Total With income support Without income support Total
Total housing benefit 2,410 1,900 4,310 22.34 13.90 18.61
Council Tenants
Rent rebate 1,380 960 2,340 19.96 14.13 17.58
Rate rebate 1,360 920 2,280 6.08 4.42 5.41
Total housing benefit 1,390 980 2,360 25.94 17.90 22.61
Private Tenants
Rent allowances 480 350 820 25.10 15.65 21.12
Rate rebate 450 270 730 4.43 3.51 4.08
Total housing benefit 490 370 850 29.15 17.43 24.10
Owner Occupier
Rate rebate 540 550 1,090 6.01 4.91 5.45
Pensioners 1,080 1,440 2,520 19.94 13.51 16.26
Lone Parents 470 60 530 26.09 15.99 24.93
Others 860 400 1,260 23.29 14.99 20.67

Table 2 Housing benefit estimated expenditure 1989–90:
£ million
Total expenditure Pensioners Lone parents Two parent families Others
Rent rebate 2,265 1,235 390 315 330
Rent allowance 1,080 390 105 75 505
Rate rebate 1,170 645 165 155 205