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Family Income Supplement

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1971

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the global sum paid to successful applicants for family income supplement, and what is the average payment per claim.

I estimate that up to 17th December nearly £2 million had been paid in family income supplements for people in full-time work. The average of the weekly payments is £1·72.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the first figure suggests that this scheme is still not widely enough known? What further steps does he think he could take to give greater publicity to it? Does not the second figure show the need for more generous treatment among those cases which have been reported?

I have three things to say in answer to that. First, I have now got the result of the review which I promised the House would be made into the numbers eligible. My original estimate on Second Reading was 164,000 households plus 25,000 on wage stop. The latest survey shows that the comparable figures are 140,000, with a take up of 68,000, plus 25,000 on wage stop. That makes a total of 93,000, or 50 per cent. of the original estimate. Secondly, the benefit per household at £1·72 is nearly double the original estimate. Thirdly, I am announcing in reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that the Government are proposing, subject to parliamentary approval of the regulations, to increase the prescribed amounts by £2 as from 1st April and to increase the maximum payment for any households from £4 to £5. These together will improve the effectiveness of the supplement.

How can the right hon. Gentleman be so self-satisfied about a scheme which is the result of the extension of means-testing beyond any reasonable limits and about a situation when men on certain incomes can be awarded a wage or salary increase of up to £3·50 and yet actually receive very little as a result of the biting of the means-testing system?

The hon. Gentleman does no service in minimising the fact that there are 93,000 families, the very poorest families, in receipt of this supplement. I am not self-satisfied, but I believe that to have 93,000 of the poorest families out of a total of about 160,000 receiving much more than we originally expected is of importance. Secondly a much large proportion than 50 per cent.—probably about 75 per cent.—of those entitled to more than £2 a week are receiving awards. The great shortfall is in awards to those entitled to receive less than £2 a week. Consequently we are reaching a relatively high proportion of those entitled to most, namely the poorest.


On a point of order. The Secretary of State for Social Services, on Question No. 20, in my view deliberately misled the House when he referred to the family income supplement allowances being raised from £4 to £5 on the significant date, 1st April, 1972. What hg failed to make clear—


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many applications for family income supplement have been received in Scotland, and how many have been granted.

Over 9,000 families in Scotland are now receiving family income supplements. Approximately another 5,000 are receiving additional supplementary benefit under Section 13 of the Family Income Supplements Act. I regret that information about numbers of claims is available only for Great Britain as a whole.

I am sure that the Minister will be disappointed at the low take-up of this benefit. Would he consult the Secretary of State for Scotland and perhaps the directors of social work with a view to finding some basis for an approach to possibly eligible claimants to this and the other 42 means-tested benefits?

Most of the 42 means-tested benefits are, of course, local authority housing rent benefits which are not at the moment a matter for national intervention. I must confess that I yearn for a way of reaching individual households, but I am warned that it would be very unpopular indeed to comb areas to find people who are entitled. We are looking for a needle in a haystack, for about half of 1 per cent. of the households in this country who remain un-reached but eligible for family income supplement.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that hon. Members on this side will be delighted at his announcement of an increase in the rate of benefit under the supplement?

Does the right hon. Gentleman not see that a take-up of only 50 per cent. after six months must call into question his selectivist strategy of first of all identifying and then trying to help the needy? This is what he is demonstrably failing to do.

I am not satisfied with the take-up—I am not concealing that— but the hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that we are now spending about three-quarters of the Estimate presented to Parliament because we are reaching those who are justified to receive the larger amount. But I remain dissatisfied with the take-up. The Government will continue to seek to improve it, and I believe that, over the nine months, we shall do so.