HC Deb 30 October 1986 vol 103 cc230-2W
Mr. Neil Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will publish the latest take-up estimates for supplementary benefit and one-parent benefit.

Mr. Leighton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people eligible for supplementary benefit do not claim it.

Mr. Clay

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will publish the estimated take-up or supplementary benefit derived from the 1983 family expenditure survey on the same basis as his reply of 30 November 1983, Official Report, column 532, to the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold.)

Mr. Lyell

The figures for supplementary benefit are shown in the tables. These are derived from the 1983 family expenditure survey and are compared with the 1981 figures. Figures for one-parent benefit will be provided shortly.

Total likely to be entitled at any one time Proportion receiving benefit at that time Number eligible but not receiving benefit Estimated benefit unclaimed Average weekly amount
Thousands Per cent. Thousands £ million per annum £
Total for all groups 4,820 71 1,390 760 10.50
1 The estimates shown for pensioners are uncertain as explained under the heading "pensioners".
2 This total is slightly greater than the sum of lines (iii), (iv) and (v) because it includes a small residual group of miscellaneous cases.


  1. 1. Estimates of those with an unclaimed entitlement are based on DHSS analysis of income and other information recorded by respondents to the family expenditure survey (FES). The estimates of those in receipt are derived from the supplementary benefit annual and quarterly statistical enquiries.
  2. 2. The estimates relate only to people living in private households; people in institutions are not sampled by the FES.
  3. 3. Estimates are subject to sampling error, particularly those based on the FES.
  4. 4. Calculation of entitlement to supplementary benefit is based on the appropriate scale rates plus age-related heating additions and also in 1983 other heating additions which can be identified from FES information.
  5. 5. For 1981 calculation of entitlement included housing costs, except where the family would have been better off claiming housing rebates. For 1983 rent and rates are excluded to take account of the introduction of housing benefit which began in November 1982.
  6. 6. In 1981 FES participants were not asked about the amount of capital they had, only about income received from capital, and assumptions had to be made from this information about such capital holdings. In 1983 additional questions were asked about some forms of capital from which no income was received e.g. National Savings Certificates.
  7. 7. The estimates for 1983 exclude housing benefit supplement recipients and entitled non-recipients, for which no reliable estimates can be made because of the transitional arrangements which operated in several parts of the country following the introduction of housing benefit.

Comparisons between 1981 and 1983 In 1981 supplementary benefit requirements included rent and domestic rates, but ceased to do so with the introduction of housing benefit, partially from November 1982 and fully from April 1983. Supplementary benefit householders then received housing benefit to cover such housing costs. For this reason no direct comparison can be made between the 1981 and 1983 take-up estimates (see notes 5 and 7 to the tables).

Amounts of benefit unclaimed Take up increases as the amount of entitlement increases. In 1983 the estimated proportion of benefit taken up was 89 per cent., and thus higher than the proportion of those entitled at any one time who actually claimed-76 per cent. The estimated proportion of benefit taken-up by the different groups was as follows:

Estimated proportion of benefit taken up
per cent.
(i) Pensioners 79
(ii) Non-pensioners—total 90
(iii) Sick and disabled 89
(iv) Unemployed 89
(v) One-parent families not included in (iii) and (iv) 97

Pensioners The 1983 take-up estimate for pensioners is uncertain because of apparent deficiencies in the information obtained by FES from pensioner respondents. Comparison between figures based on FES data and the supplementary benefit annual and quarterly statistics indicate that a substantial number of FES pensioner respondents failed to report that they were receiving supplementary benefit. The FES figures have therefore been adjusted to make an allowance for this, but the adjustment must to some extent be speculative. The indications are that the FES figures fail to identify receipt of supplementary benefit by some 350,000 pensioners. For technical reasons, partly to do with lack of precision in such a complex survey as FES, the estimate of entitled non-recipients could not just be reduced by 350,000. Statisticians have adjusted the figures by reducing the estimated number of entitled non-recipients by 160,000. A technical note explaining this adjustment is being placed in the Library. There must be some doubt whether the estimate that 67 per cent. of pensioners were claiming 79 per cent. of their entitlement to supplementary benefit is correct. The indications are, however, that the average entitlement of non-claiming pensioners is small. £3.40 a week, including some 60 per cent. entitled to less than £3.

Non-pensioners In 1983 it is estimated that at one time 83 per cent. of non-pensioners claimed 90 per cent. of their supplementary benefit entitlement. It is notable that 91 per cent. of one-parent families claimed 97 per cent. of their entitlement. It must be doubtful to what extent take-up by this group could be improved. The reasons for non take-up are complex. Analysis of the characteristics of unemployed people who had not taken up their entitlement to supplementary benefit shows that a high proportion, about 60 per cent., were living in other people's households, and in the majority the income of the household as a whole was well above supplementary benefit levels. Take-up increased to 90 per cent. for those unemployed more than three months. The information on which the take-up figures is based is given by FES respondents at one point of time. Those who have not taken up their entitlement at that point of time may do so at another time.

Measures to Promote Take-up We continue to promote take-up by issuing a claim form to all retirement pensioners and widows, all unemployed claimants and all sickness benefit, invalidity benefit and severe disablement allowance claimants. We co-operate at local level with well organised take-up campaigns mounted by local authorities. A postal claim form procedure has been introduced for all claimants to make it easier and more convenient for them to claim if they prefer not to be interviewed about their claim in a social security office or at home.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement about the latest figures for the take up of benefits by people aged 16 to 25 years.

Mr. Lyell

[pursuant to the reply, 21 October 1986, c. 859]: Estimates of the take-up of housing benefit and family income supplement for 16 to 25 year olds are not practicable because of the limited number of sample cases available in the family expenditure survey. However, take-up of supplementary benefit for this age group was 80 per cent. in 1983.