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Benefits (Industrial Disputes)

Volume 972: debated on Monday 22 October 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what instructions have been issued in regard to arrangements for expediting social security payments to strikers; and what is the effect of such arrangements on the normal work of his Department.

No instructions have been issued to expedite supplementary benefit payments to strikers but there are instructions, on the following general lines, for taking and processing their claims—mainly for their dependants—with the least possible disruption of the normal service to the public:

  • 1. Local offices should handle the extra claims, staff reinforcements being provided as necessary, unless the number is likely to exceed their ability to process them and their normal work without undue delay.
  • 2. Where local offices cannot handle the extra claims as well as their normal work, either because the number is too great or they do not have enough accommodation, special centres may be opened. Strikers are then interviewed and their claims are processed at the centres leaving local offices to continue their normal work.
  • 3. Where there would be difficulties in interviewing and processing strikers claims, eg because of their volume, decisions can be made on declaration forms completed and signed by the strikers and sent in by post with documents supporting their statements, eg last wages slips.
  • 4. Any payments due are normally made by girocheque sent through the post, whatever the arrangements for taking and processing the claims.
  • The effect on the normal work of local offices varies according to numbers of claims and duration of strikes. Bringing in staff from offices other than those directly involved spreads and dilutes the effects. It is usually possible to avoid undue delay in taking claims, initiating and renewing payments to other—non-striker—claimants, but some other work may have to be abandoned or deferred.