HC Deb 25 October 1990 vol 178 cc283-4W
Mr. Ashley

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will specify what formal procedures for making complaints and representations, specifying where appropriate under which sections of which Acts, are available locally and nationally to children and young people under 18 years of age who wish to make complaints about matters which are the responsibility of his Department.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

In general, only persons aged 16 or over are entitled to social security benefits in their own right. All such persons have the same rights of making complaints or representations irrespective of age. Where children are entitled to benefit any rights of redress will be exercised by the person claiming on their behalf.

Claims for social security benefits are decided by independent adjudication officers (section 98 of the Social Security Act 1975). Claimants unhappy with benefit decisions can ask for a review of that decision (section 104) or appeal to an independent tribunal under the presidential system (sections 100 and 109). There is a further right of appeal, on a point of law, from the tribunal decision to the social security commissioner (sections 101 and 112) and from the commissioner's decision to an appropriate court (section 114).

Entitlement to income support is restricted to persons over 18 and to those of ages 16 and 17 who are not required to be available for employment including lone parents, blind and disabled persons and pregnant women. A 16 or 17-year-old who is required to be available may also be entitled where it appears to the Secretary of State that severe hardship will result unless income support is paid. Decisions on the severe hardship question are made centrally at the severe hardship cases unit in Glasgow and can be reviewed and possibly revoked following representation.

The attendance allowance board determines medical questions arising from claims to attendance allowance (section 105) and a dissatisfied claimant can seek a review of the board's decision (section 106). There is then a right of appeal on a point of law against any review decision to the social security commissioner.

Certain questions, mainly concerned with contribution matters, are decided by the Secretary of State. Claimants can seek a review of such decisions or appeal on a point of law to the appropriate court (section 94).

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration can investigate complaints of maladministration but has no power to challenge decisions of the independent adjudication authorities (PCA Act 1967).