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Supplementary Benefit (Home Help Charges)

Volume 990: debated on Thursday 7 August 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will instruct his local offices to take into account, when

after six months unemployment and (b) of paying unemployment benefit at this rate for (i) a further year after the present time limit and (ii) as long as unemployment lasts; and if he will provide an estimate of the impact these measures would have on the number of unemployed claiming supplementary benefit;

(2) what would be the net cost at 1980– 81 benefit rates of paying flat rate unemployment benefit (a) for an extra year and (b) so long as unemployment lasts; and what would be the impact of these measures on the number of unemployed claiming supplementary benefit;

(3) what would be the net cost at 1980– 81 benefit rates of (a) increasing flat rate unemployment benefit to the level of retirement pension after six months' unemployment and (b) of paying unemployment benefit at this rate for (i) a further year after the present time limit and (ii) so long as unemployment lasts; and what he estimates the impact these measures would have on the number of unemployed claiming supplementary benefit.

I regret that it is not possible to provide a reliable estimate of the net costs. However, by making broad assumptions on the circumstances of claimants and duration of periods of unemployment, it is considered that the various net costs at average 1980–81 benefit rates might be of the following order:assessing the needs element for payment of supplementary benefit, any charge to be imposed by local authorities for the provision of home helps.

No. From 24 November, the Supplementary Benefit (Requirements) Regulations (schedule 3 part II paragraph 14(c)), which the House approved last week, specifically preclude the payment of additional supplementary benefit for local authority home helps. Until then the responsibility lies with the Supplementary Benefits Commission, whose view, with which I fully agree, is that local authorities' discretionary powers to charge for home helps should not be exercised in respect of people living at supplementary benefit level.