§ Mr. Kirkwood
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will extend the severe weather payment regulations to cover single women receiving supplementary pensions between the ages of 60 and 65 years; and if he will estimate the additional costs involved;
(2) if he will extend the severe weather payment regulations to cover single widows between the ages of 60 and 65 years; and if he will estimate the additional costs involved;
(3) if he will extend the severe weather payment regulations to cover assessment units with children under the age of five years; and if he will estimate the additional costs involved.
§ Mr. Major
Exceptionally cold weather payments have been targeted on those groups most at risk from the cold. No reliable estimate can be made of the cost of extending entitlement to other groups, since this will depend on how often, and in how many areas, a period of exceptionally cold weather is declared in any particular year, and on the number of claimants in those groups who have capital of less than £500 on the date of claim.
§ Mr. Cartwright
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received about enabling neighbourhood energy action groups to insulate the homes of those receiving severe weather payments; and what reply he has given.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to reply to the letter sent 552W to him by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber about exceptionally severe weather payments on 2 December 1986.
Brown asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will instruct all his offices to accept telephone applications for severe weather payments; and if he will instruct each local office to write to pensioners and others on supplementary benefit informing them that they may be eligible for severe weather payments.
§ Mr. Major
The Department's local offices have already been instructed to accept claims for exceptionally cold weather payments by telephone.
Although there are nearly 5 million supplementary benefit recipients, it is estimated that only about 1.5 million of these will qualify for exceptionally cold weather payments. It is not, therefore, proposed to instruct local offices to write to all supplementary benefit recipients about the scheme. I am, however, satisfied that, in view of the widespread publicity in national and local newspapers and on local radio, all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that potential claimants are made aware of their entitlement.