HC Deb 10 January 1978 vol 941 cc1420-1
4. Mr. David Price

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many claims he has so far received for the disabled housewives' non-contributory invalidity benefit; how many have been granted; how many have been refused; how many have still to be determined; and what relation the number of successful claims to date bear to his original estimate of potential claims when he introduced this new benefit.

Mr. Orme

The number of claims received up to 3rd January 1978 was 52,336. It is not possible at present to say how many of these claims will result in an award of benefit, but, if the present figures are a reliable guide, awards may be made on about two-thirds of the claims. The number of awards which had actually been made up to 6th January 1978 was 27,676.

Mr. Price

I thank the Minister for that reply, but to what extent is he finding that the major limiting factor on the speed with which these claims are being processed has been the need for medical examination and medical reports and the consequential pressure upon, in particular, family practitioners at a time of year when they are pretty busy anyway?

Mr. Orme

I can confirm that that has been the major problem in dealing with this matter. The novel nature and the complexities of the job to be undertaken by family practitioners—there were negotiations with the practitioners as to how they would carry it out and about the appropriate fees—have affected the start of the scheme.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, when I moved the new clause in Committee for this purpose, it was designed to help the worse-off in our society to sustain the family? Does he realise that the regulations have been drafted in such a way that the worse-off in our society are now punished? This provision was designed to assist a family to keep together by the giving of an additional cost allowance. Will my right hon. Friend please give an undertaking to rule out this vicious and wicked anomaly?

Mr. Orme

I understand my hon. Friend's concern, and he has raised the matter with my hon. Friend the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled. When the scheme is fully operational, we shall certainly look at that point.