HC Deb 26 January 1999 vol 324 cc235-6W
Mr. Rammell

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which measures of local deprivation his Department and its agencies use in considering allocation of funds to local projects. [66716]

Angela Eagle

The Department administers a demand-led social security system based on national eligibility criteria. It therefore provides the main national means of alleviating the impact on families and individuals of insufficient personal financial resources.

However, there are a few instances where local criteria are used for the provision of funds. One such example is the annual allocation of the discretionary social fund budget to Benefit Agency District Offices. In this instance, one of the criteria used is individual demand for social fund loans amongst the local population in receipt of income support. This budgeting exercise occurs annually and full details on local budget allocations and how they are set are available in the Library.

In addition, there are a number of discretionary provisions available to those local authorities who administer Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. For example, housing benefit can be increased up to the level of the contractual rent for people who would otherwise experience exceptional hardship under provisions like the local reference rent. Overall financial provision, and its distribution to individual local authorities, is made annually in full consultation with the Local Authority Associations. Authorities can also operate discretionary local schemes to disregard up to the full amount of a War Disablement Pension and War Widow's Pension not already subject to a statutory disregard within the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit provisions.