asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the estimated take-up rate of those entitled to free welfare milk and prescriptions and if he will undertake publicity campaigns to improve this take-up rate.
I estimate that for most categories of beneficiary the take-up is 95 per cent. or above. For those entitled to claim on grounds of income the take-up has always been small and now stands at about 4 per cent. The Government already publicise the benefits in a variety of ways and the question of any further publicity would have to be considered in the light of other work and the resources available.
Is the Minister aware that the take-up of free welfare milk was only about 1·8 per cent. in 1977? As these figures will no longer be worked out, according to the Secretary of State, we shall never know what the trend is. That means that about 600,000 families are being deprived of what they should receive in order to maintain family nutriments for proper subsistence. What will the Minister do about this deplorable situation?
The hon. Lady does not have her facts quite right.
Yes she has.
The take-up of welfare milk is not 1·8 per cent. overall.
Yes it is.
It is 96 per cent. for supplementary benefit recipients, 98 per cent. for family income supplement recipients, and 100 per cent. for handicapped children not registered at school. The 4 per cent. applies only to those claiming on low-income grants. Nothing said by my right hon. Friend yesterday affects their position.
Is it not a fact that the situation with regard to prescriptions is disturbing? There is a great shortfall in the number of people taking up their entitlement to free prescriptions. Does not this draw attention to the recommendations of the Royal Commission that all charges in the National Health Service, including prescription charges, should be abolished forthwith?
No, Sir. Information is available on every prescription form about exemption from charges. Posters giving this information are available in doctors' surgeries, health clinics, chemists, hospitals and local DHSS and family practitioner offices, and it is also made known on leaflets that are available from post offices, DHSS offices, and family practitioner committees.
Is the Minister aware that the cuts in school meals, transport and housing, the increases in electricity charges, and now welfare foods, are aimed at large families where the husband is working? These cuts are being made by a Government who talk about incentives for people at work. What does the Minister say about that?
I repeat that nothing that my right hon. Friend announced yesterday about free welfare milk affects anyone entitled to free milk on the ground of low income.