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Volume 940: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is meant by overlapping benefits; how many such cases there are; and what would be the cost of paying additional benefits in each case assuming 100 per cent. take-up.

In a comprehensive social security scheme it is not uncommon for a person who is affected by one of the contingencies for which the scheme provides—for example, sickness, widowhood or retirement—to qualify for benefit under two or more provisions of the scheme, each of which is intended, broadly, to provide for his maintenance and that of his dependants. It has never been the intention that more than one payment should be made out of public funds for this purpose, and provision is made in the Acts and regulations concerned to ensure that this does not happen. Precise information about the number of cases where double payment is prevented in this way is not available, but it has been estimated that, within the national insurance scheme alone, it would cost something of the order of £2 billion in a full year to abolish the present provisions which prevent the cumulation of benefits.