asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will, in view of the rising cost of travel, take steps to alter the rule permitting claimants of unemployment benefit living more than six miles from a local unemployment benefit office to prove that they are unemployed by post so that persons living at a lesser distance from a local office may prove unemployment by post; or whether alternatively, she will take steps to enable successful applicants for unemployment benefit to be reimbursed for travelling expenses that they have necessarily incurred in travelling to the local office.
Personal attendance at a local benefit office has always been regarded as an important feature of the arrangements for paying benefits for the unemployed unless there is some special local difficulty. It not only facilitates a better service for unemployed claimants but also helps in determining the conditions for benefit and in guarding against abuse. The frequency of attendance has been reduced to a minimum in recent years. The alternative to personal attendance, of taking claims by post, would not necessarily lead to any administrative advantage and would depersonalise the procedure as well as increasing the opportunities for abuse. Paying individual travelling expenses, with the inevitable disputes that this would cause, or, alternatively, making a flat-rate addition to benefit in all cases, to avoid the need for ascertaining or calculating expenses, would add considerably to the costs of administration, at the expense of other contributors to the National Insurance Fund. If, however, the hon. Member has any particular local difficulty in mind and will let me know, I should be glad to look into it.