To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will set up an investigation into the effects on the disposable resources of persons dependent on social security benefits of the April 1988 social security changes, and in particular the effect on those in receipt of industrial injuries pension, war pensions or disability pensions.
Does the Minister accept that the most traumatic of the changes in April were the increases in payable rents because of the erosion of housing benefit, and that of all the changes the most hurtful are those affecting the groups mentioned in my question—industrial injuries pensioners, war pensioners and disability pensioners? Even allowing for the transitional payments, they will find their special pensions reduced by perhaps £2 per week because of the way in which the benefit is working. Will the Government look again at the working people in those positions are not hit by that change?
Let me separate those categories a little for the hon. Gentleman. He will know that for war pensioners the local authority discretion on housing benefit has not been removed. Any local authority that wishes to make special arrangements for war pensioners is free to do so. The other two categories are covered by the transitional payments, and any of the hon. Gentleman's constituents should now be applying to the transitional unit in Glasgow.
Mr. John M. Taylor:
Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the distribution of explanatory leaflets for the benefit changes? Does he accept that two citizens advice bureaux in my constituency have drawn to my attention their concern about that? Can my hon. Friend do something to expedite the matter? I think that it would help.
I am sorry to hear of my hon. Friend's concern. Some 8·5 million copies of leaflet RR4 on housing benefit have been published and most have been sent out. All social security offices, local authorities and many advice centres have them. If my hon. Friend has a particular difficulty in mind, I should be pleased to consider it.
Can the Minister explain why charitable payments are now taken into account as income under the new income support scheme? Can he tell the House whether it is true that if a blind couple with guide dogs receive help in feeding their dogs, that couple could lose up to £10 a week under that scheme?
The first £5 a week is disregarded. Other payments are taken into account as capital, as I understand it. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that payments that are made to third parties are not taken into account. That provision could be helpful in the instance that he has mentioned.
It has not escaped my hon. Friend's notice that, for the Opposition, the alarmist flavour of the month is to suggest that more people are living in poverty. Will my hon. Friend tell the House whether the bottom 10 per cent. are better, or worse, off than they were six or seven years ago?
Since 1981 that group has experienced an increase in living standards of about 8 per cent., which is better than for the population as a whole, but my hon. Friend draws attention to the fact that under the old statistics, which are based on supplementary benefit, if the rates of benefit became more generous, more people appeared to be living in poverty.