§ Mr. Tapsell
asked the Minister of Social Security whether she will now announce the new checks to limit abuse of the social services.
§ Mrs. Hart
I have become increasingly concerned about the very small minority of people who are abusing social security provision. While established procedures have existed for many years to ensure prosecution in cases of fraud, or failure to maintain a family, I have been discussing with the Chairman of the Supplementary Benefits Commission what more should now be done, to check voluntary unemployment: that is, to ensure that supplementary allowances are not paid to those who, while unemployed, are not genuinely seeking new jobs.
Two new steps are to be taken whenever they are appropriate in the light of employment situation in the area. First, all new claims from unemployed persons under 45 who are drawing supplementary allowances will be individually reviewed after three months by one of my local officers. This ensures that no case escapes scrutiny. The review will entail in appropriate cases a searching and detailed interview, which will enable our officer to discover whether a man is simply not genuinely seeking work, or whether he has some disability or psychological handicap. This is a judgment which our experienced officers are very well able to make, and which they make with humanity and with skill.
If it appears that a man is not genuinely seeking work, he will be told very frankly that he must do so; he will be told to take any suitable work which is available rather than waiting for a job which by its nature is hard to find. Most of those who are not genuinely seeking work are unskilled or semi-skilled: there will, of course be special consideration as there always has been for craftsmen and skilled workers who may need a longer time to find appropriate jobs. Where our officer decides that it would be justified, a man will be told that his supplementary allowance will not continue for more than four weeks.
Work will be rearranged in local offices as necessary to allow this work to be given the priority it must command. We 214W shall apply this only when there are suitable jobs open to the claimants in question.
Second, when they first claim, most fit young single persons will be told, whenever work is available in their locality, that they should be able to find work within four weeks and that after four weeks a supplementary allowance will not be paid to them. Again, there will be every safeguard in the mass of genuine claimants. For example, if a supplementary allowance is refused or terminated, there is, of course, a right of appeal to the independent local Supplementary Benefits Appeal Tribunal. There will, of course, be the fullest co-operation with the Department of Employment and Productivity.