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Volume 29: debated on Thursday 28 October 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what new arrangements or instructions will be issued to ensure that claimants who have sums of money deducted at source in order to meet gas or electricity bills, and will shortly also have their rent deducted at source as part of the unified housing benefit scheme, will be left with sufficient means to provide for their daily, dependent needs; and if he will make a statement.

None. The introduction of housing benefit does not, in itself, affect the sum which claimants have available for living expenses and there are a number of safeguards in the supplementary benefit fuel direct arrangements which are aimed at ensuring that the balance of benefit left available to the claimant is sufficient to meet his other needs. The amount deducted to cover current consumption is determined on the basis of the claimant's actual consumption during the year. Any additional amount to be deducted towards arrears is normally fixed at either £1·20 or £2·35 per week, depending on circumstances, and can never be more than £3·60 a week. A total amount in excess of 25 per cent. of the claimant's normal requirements cannot be deducted without the claimant's consent.We shall be arranging for the social security policy inspectorate to study the impact of recent and forthcoming changes in benefit arrangements on the budgeting of supplementary benefit households.