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Computers

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in view of the need to simplify the United Kingdom's system, if he will make a study of the Finnish computer system employed to deal automatically with claims and increases in social benefits; and if he will make a statement.

My Department already makes substantial use of computers for the payment of social security benefits and has plans for extending the use of such equipment in those cases where it is practicable and economic. I understand that, unlike the British system, the main component of the Finnish system is a flat-rate pension to which there are a number of supplements most of which are linked to the cost of living index and increases are paid automatically regardless of the individual circumstances. It is difficult to compare the complexity of the two systems. Any advantages arising from greater simplification of our benefits have always to be weighed against the rougher justice which must ensue in relation both to the claimant's needs and to the proper control of payments.The United Kingdom has a reciprocal agreement on social security with Finland which is at present in course of revision and information about both countries' schemes is being exchanged. In addition I have been invited to visit Finland later this year by the Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health.