Unemployed Persons (Supplementary Benefit)

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th January 1977.

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Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton 12:00 am, 11th January 1977

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many registered unemployed are currently in receipt of supplementary benefit only.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Waltham Forest Walthamstow

The latest available information relates to August 1976, when the figure stood at about 730,000.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Is the Minister aware that that is a truly astonishing figure? If only half the unemployed are in receipt of unemployment benefits, why are the other half not receiving them? Are they not entitled to draw unemployment benefits because they have been unemployed for more than a year? If this is the case, is it not a shocking commentary on the effect of the social contract?

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Waltham Forest Walthamstow

It has got nothing whatever to do with the social contract but everything to do with the way in which our national insurance system works. In May last year 43 per cent. of the registered unemployed receiving supplementary benefit did so only because their entitlement to unemployment benefit had lapsed. In addition, 44 per cent. got supplementary benefit and not full unemployment benefit because their contribution records were deficient in some way.

Photo of Mr John Ovenden Mr John Ovenden , Gravesend

Does the Minister agree that far too many unemployed people are receiving only supplementary benefit for their children and dependants because of intolerable delays in settling their appeals against disqualification from benefit? This has caused hardship to hundreds of workers in my constituency who were formerly employed on the Isle of Grain power station site and who find that they are still disqualified six months after becoming unemployed.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Waltham Forest Walthamstow

My hon. Friend has raised a special case, which I shall look into. In general, I am not aware of any delay in settling appeals which is caus ing people to suffer unduly. My hon. Friend should note the point that 50 per cent. of the unemployed are not getting unemployment benefit, and this should be taken account of when considering abuse and fraud.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Budgen Mr Nicholas Budgen , Wolverhampton South West

Does the Minister agree that the whole system of supplementary benefits is undermined by increasing fraud and abuse? Is it not right that one of the most important ways in which that fraud is perpetrated is by persons claiming under false names? Is it not possible to check that by requiring that all claimants should produce identity cards before receiving supplementary benefits?

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Waltham Forest Walthamstow

We are looking at many ways of cracking down on fraud and abuse. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security made a statement on 21st September last year, a copy of which will be published in today's Official Report in answer to a later Question. In that statement my right hon. Friend gave an undertaking to devote resources to the pursuit of wrongdoers, but he emphasised that such action should not discourage genuine claimants. This remains our policy.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Does my hon. Friend agree that the so-called dodgers in respect of supplementary benefit are as nothing compared with those people who do not claim benefits at all? Is it not a fact that the sum of £6 million or so—to which this massive propaganda effort is being devoted—is tiny compared with the vast amount of money that could be claimed honourably by people who do not claim at all? Also, does he agree that the exaggeration of figures of unemployment would be nothing to what there would be if public expenditure cuts urged by the Conservatives were put into effect? Their cuts would double unemployment.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Waltham Forest Walthamstow

My hon. Friend has made a number of valid points. About three quarters of the amount of supplementary benefit paid out are paid to retirement pensioners, and I do not think that anyone is going to accuse them of fraud and abuse.

Photo of Mrs Jill Knight Mrs Jill Knight , Birmingham, Edgbaston

Will the Minister say whether the 3,276 qualified nurses who are currently unemployed constitute a record?