HC Deb 26 January 1999 vol 324 cc191-2W
Mr. McGrady

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many renewal claims were made for child benefit(a) in 1997–98 and (b) from 1 April to 31 December 1998; how many (i) have been processed with payments made and order books issued and (ii) are outstanding; and how long it takes to process a renewal claim. [67032]

Mr. McFall

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Social Security Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. Chris Thompson. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Chris Thompson to Mr. Eddie McGrady, dated 26 January 1999: I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question about the number of applications for renewal order books for child Benefit. The number of renewal order books issued for the period 1 April 1997 to 31 March 1998 was 387,636 and for the period 1 April to 31 December 1998 it was 343,356. Figures are not available for those that are outstanding. Renewal order books are normally issued automatically so there is no need for a renewal claim. While most order books are issued in time to ensure that there is no break in payment, there can be a delay in the issuing if some order books. This occurs when a customer has reported a change in their circumstances and enquiries have to be made to clarify their entitlement to benefit. I am aware that these delays can cause distress to customers and we have recently set up a special section to deal with these cases. This will ensure that the number of such cases are kept to a minimum and are processed as quickly as is possible. I hope that this explains the position to you.