§ Mr. Burt
The information is in the table. The base rate has remained unchanged at 6 per cent. since 26 January 1993. The taper in council tax benefit, which was introduced in April 1993, is 20 per cent. Council tax benefit can meet a maximum 100 per cent. of the council tax whereas in community charge benefit, the maximum rebate was 80 per cent. of the community charge.
Date 1 April 1993 Figures Base rate (per cent.) 6.00 Amount of interest earned on capital of £5,000 invested at base rate (per week) £5.769 Benefit deduction for £5,000 capital in both housing benefit and council tax benefit (per week) £8.00 Tapered amount set against benefit (per week) HB (65 per cent. taper) £5.20 CTB (20 per cent taper) £1.60
§ Mr. Hinchliffe
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what efforts are presently being made to ensure people know of the full range of benefits available; and what strategies are being pursued to ensure everyone gets their full entitlement.
§ Mr. Burt
The provision of information and advice to the public on benefits is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member and a copy will be placed in the Library.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. David Hinchliffe, dated 1 November 1993:As Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency it is my responsibility to answer questions raised about relevant operational matters. I am therefore replying to your recent 188W Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security, asking what efforts are being made to ensure people know of the full range of benefits available; and what strategies are being pursued to ensure everyone gets their full entitlement.As you will be aware, the Secretary of State announced, on 9 September, that the Benefits Agency is involved in a major programme of work designed to improve the service given to customers. The intention is to provide a One Stop benefit delivery service which aims to minimise the points of contact for customers who claim more than one benefit. The first stage towards a One Stop service should be in place by mid 1994 and it is envisaged that customers will then be able to obtain from their local Benefits Agency Office:
- 1. Advice and information on all the major benefits regardless of where they are administered.
- 2. Access to most benefit claim forms.
- 3. Help with claiming benefits even if they are not locally administered.In connection with the One Stop project, the Benefits Agency is establishing better links with other Agencies and associated service providers, such as Employment Services and Local Authorities. The Agency is also working closely with a range of advisers and intermediaries to ensure that they have access to appropriate information and support to enable them to brief their clients effectively on benefit related issues.The availability and visibility of information materials in non-Benefits Agency outlets is being increased; currently over 70,000 intermediaries have direct access to our material through the Benefits Agency Publicity Register. In addition, steps are being taken to improve the range of material available in other forms, for example in Braille, large print, audio cassette and in ethnic translation.The Social Security Freeline Service provides information and advice on all benefits to the general public and as an addition to this the Benefit Enquiry Line gives advice to people with disabilities and their carers; this service now includes a minicom number and expanded form filling facility. To help customers further, a Family Credit Helpline was introduced, coinciding with a major advertising campaign, when the Secretary of State launched the Return to Work initiative in April.Finally, a national Customer Service Definition, outlining the standards and range of services to be provided, has been issued to all Benefits Agency offices.I hope you find this reply helpful. A copy will appear in the Official Report and a copy will be placed in the Library.