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Essential Supplies (Hardship Cases)

Volume 961: debated on Tuesday 30 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied that his Department was able to deal satisfactorily with any hardship cases, especially affecting elderly people, caused by the disruption of essential supplies of food and fuel, in respect of recipients of supplementary benefit assistance.

Yes, Sir, but if the hon. Member has any particular case in mind and will let me have details, I shall look into the matter.

I thank the Minister for that reply. I shall pass the details to him. Now that old people have had five to six weeks of very cold weather, will the hon. Gentleman consider embarking upon extra publicity, through the normal media, to make sure that those who are perhaps too proud to apply for this kind of help will do so if they need it?

I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's point. We have to stick to a budget, and advertising in some elements of the media is an extremely expensive proposition, particularly on the short-term basis that the hon. Gentleman has recommended. There is, of course, the good neighbour scheme and a number of other arrangements by which we can get information to elderly people about the facilities that are available through the supplementary benefit system. I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

What steps is the Minister taking to bring to the knowledge of ordinary pensioners the availability of social security payments when the lack of paper interferes with the payment of their normal pensions, as has happened to many pensioners in my constituency?

I was unaware of the difficulty described by the hon. Member. If he will give me the details, I undertake to look into the matter immediately.

Will my hon. Friend indicate the method of advertising employed? Recently, one or two cases have been brought to my attention concerning people who have been receiving pensions, but not supplementary or other benefits. Although there is an extensive advertising campaign, would not matters be simplified by putting a slip in the pension book to ask pensioners whether they are receiving the full benefits, in addition to pensions, to which they are entitled?

I understand that on the back cover of the pension book there is a reference to further assistance that might be available. If pensioners were to read that—of course, not all of them would want to—they would obtain the information. I do not see that putting anything else into the pension book would assist greatly, but I shall examine the other suggestions that have been made.

Will the Minister consider using local radio to help some elderly people? They listen to local radio, and I am sure that a number of the companies would be only too willing to help the elderly at this difficult time.

A lot would depend on the advertising rates being charged by the various elements of the media. If the hon. Lady is referring to editorial matter, that is something that we can look into very quickly.