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Disabled Housewives' Allowance

Volume 957: debated on Tuesday 7 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the amending of the qualifying regulations for receipt of the disabled housewives' allowance.

The Social Security Act 1975 provided for the payment to eligible married women of a non-contributory invalidity pension (HNCIP). Eligibility was linked to incapacity for work and for performing normal household duties. To ensure that the benefit was not restricted to married women who were helpless, or nearly helpless, a regulation was made requiring only that a woman should be incapable of household duties to any substantial extent. This was approved by the National Insurance Advisory Committee. It was the intention that consideration would be required both of what a woman could do and of what she could not do.For nearly a year, the adjudicating authorities interpreted the legislation in that sense in some 60,000 cases, leading to over 40,000 awards. But on 8th September a tribunal of national insurance commissioners, whose decision is binding on all adjudicating authorities, decided that there was entitlement to HNCIP if the married woman was unable to do a substantial part of her household duties, regardless of what she could do. The regulation was, therefore, amended to restore the Government's original intention and to ensure that the available resources are allocated according to agreed priorities.Expenditure on HNCIP is currently running at £23 million a year. Had amending regulations not been made, this figure would perhaps have increased by twice as much or more. My Department had no money to meet the extra expenditure called for by the tribunal's decision. Moreover, it would, in the Government's view, have been wrong to allow the whole process of settling priorities about further progress to be pre-empted by a commissioners' decision which changed the intended effect of the law.