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Supplementary Benefit

Volume 14: debated on Monday 30 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will review the criteria for determining that claimants for supplementary benefit are living together as man and wife, having regard to the fact that such criteria are not applied to two persons of the same sex living in the same accommodation and claiming such benefit.

The Supplementary Benefit Act 1976 provides for the requirements and resources of a married couple, or of a couple living together as husband and wife, to be aggregated in determining an entitlement to supplementary benefit. The policy reflects the assumption that a married couple have a mutual responsibility in the widest sense to look after one another. The rules about aggregation extend to those who are living together as husband and wife so that they are not given a financial advantage, within the terms of the scheme, over people who are married.Decisions as to what constitutes living together as husband and wife are made by the independent adjudicating authority—the benefit officer—subject to case law established by the decisions of the independent Social Security Commissioner. In reaching those decisions benefit officers follow the criteria set out in paragraph 2.12 of the Supplementary Benefit Handbook. Not each and every criterion must be fulfilled before a decision is made that a couple are "living together", but a general judgment is needed in each case as to the appropriateness of such a decision.I shall write further to my hon. Friend about this issue.