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Invalidity Benefit

Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 30 November 1982

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will ensure that his Department's offices pay for removal costs for those on invalidity benefit in the same way as payments are made to those on supplementary benefit.

There is no provision for making single payments to anyone who is not entitled to supplementary benefit, and at present I have no plans for changing these arrangements.

Is it not a fact that at one time DHSS offices had the discretion to pay removal costs for people moving out of their council house to sheltered accommodation and for seriously disabled people in such circumstances? Now, however, councils and organisations for the disabled are inundating us with complaints that the Government, not content with hammering the poor and the sick, have instructed DHSS offices to take away that paltry benefit.

As the House will recall, that matter was fully debated in 1980 when Parliament decided—

—Parliament decided to remove the discretion when introducing the regulated supplementary benefit scheme. That decision followed a review that was undertaken and completed just before the Labour Government went out of office. It was recognised at the time that the drawing of a firm line at those in receipt of supplementary benefit meant that those just on the wrong side of the line could not be helped by a lump sum payment. I remind the hon. Gentleman that in practice the discretion was exercised in very exceptional circumstances and only when the income was barely above the supplementary level.

Is the Minister aware that in many mining areas there are disabled people who have been on invalidity benefit for 10 or 12 years having to move to special accommodation? It is as important to spend cash on those removals as it is to spend it on the Falklands war. Why can cash be found for operations such as the Falklands war, which kill people, when it cannot be found for helping disabled people?

If those people are in receipt of supplementary benefit, they will be helped under the rules that I have just outlined.

The Minister knows perfectly well that the Social Security Advisory Committee has recommended the restoration of this limited flexibility, which existed under the old rules. Will he act to implement that recommendation, or is this another one of the SSAC's recommendations that will be put in the dustbin by the Government?

We have noted that the SSAC has made a general recommendation that there should be a limited extension of eligibility. The committee is considering the degree of that extension and we will consider its recommendations on the detail when they are received.