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Volume 978: debated on Monday 4 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether it is intended that fortnightly payment of benefit at post offices should be mandatory for recipients, or whether they will be able to retain weekly payment.

As my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major) on 18 January—[Vol. 976, c. 885–86]—indicated, the Government are considering changes in the frequency of paying social security benefits. Any changes that might be made after careful consideration and proper consultation will need to include arrangements for the most vulnerable groups in society to continue to have benefits paid weekly across post office counters if they wish. If most benefits were to be paid fortnightly—as is done for the unemployed now—it would not be practicable to allow all beneficiaries the option of weekly payment.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what weekly support from public funds the following families would obtain, in all cases where there are no earnings (a) a widow of 42 years with two children between 10 and 16 years, (b) a widow of 52 years with two children between 10 and 16 years and (c) an unmarried divorcee in receipt of maintenance with two children between 10 and 16 years.

Provided the contribution conditions for national insurance widow's benefit were fully satisfied by the late husband, the widows in cases (a) and (b) would both receive for the first six months after widowhood, a widow's allowance of £32·60 a week, together with a dependency increase of £14·20 for their two children and £8 child benefit, a total of £54·80. In addition, depending on the husband's earnings in the relevant tax year, an earnings-related addition to the widow's allowance may be payable, up to a current maximum of £17·67. After the first six months both widows would continue to receive the same dependency increases and child benefit, but the widow's allowance would be replaced by a widowed mother's allowance of £23·30, giving a total of £45·50. The earnings-related addition to widow's allowance would cease, but if the late husband died on or after 6 April 1979, there may, depending on his earnings since 6 April 1978, be entitlement to an additional earnings-related amount on top of the basic widowed mother's allowance. The maximum addition currently payable is £1·54. The unmarried divorcee would be entitled to £2·50 child benefit increase in addition to £8 child benefit.All families would be entitled to supplementary benefit to the extent—if any—that their resources—including benefits and/or maintenance—fell short of their requirements. For a householder with two children aged 12 and 14, the requirements would amount to £35·35 plus provision for rent: this amount would in- crease to £40·75 plus rent provision after the claimant had been receiving supplementary benefit for two years, or reached the age of 60 if earlier.