To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to what extent discretion may be exercised by those charged with taking decisions on the application of the social security legislation such that not only the facts of a particular case may be taken into account, but general circumstances; and under what powers he grants such discretion.
In the application of social security legislation to social security benefits, decision makers make their decision by considering all the evidence and applying the law, including any relevant case law, to the facts of the case. Discretion does not feature in the decision making process in determining claims and applications for benefit other than in relation to the discretionary social fund. The powers for that Scheme are found in the Social Security Contribution and Benefits Act 1992, the Social Security Administration Act 1992, and in the directions issued by the Secretary of State.
Decisions affecting the administration of benefit, such as suspending payment of benefit where a doubt as to entitlement arises and the making of interim payments where administrative processes are delayed are subject to a certain degree of discretion, but only within the constraints of the legislation. The powers are to be found in the Social Security Administration Act 1992 and the Social Security Act 1998 respectively.