§ Mr. Higgins
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the social security and other benefits available at national, county and local level, to which persons arriving in the United Kingdom are and are not entitled if they have not paid United Kingdom taxes or national insurance contributions.
§ Mr. Burt
The administration of benefits in Great Britain is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to my hon. Friend with such information as is available and a copy will be placed in the Library. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is responsible for the arrangements in Northern Ireland.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Terence Higgins, dated 7 May 1993:300W
As Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency it is my responsibility to answer questions about relevant operational matters. I am therefore replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security asking if he will list the Social Security and any other benefits available at national, county and local level, to which persons arriving in the United Kingdom are and are not entitled to if they have not paid United Kingdom taxes or National Insurance contributions.
I should point out that, although benefits may be administered locally they are national benefits. I enclose a copy of leaflet FB2 which lists all social security benefits which are available. Entitlement is dependent on a person's individual circumstances. Most Social Security benefits employ a residence or contribution test and so are not immediately available to those entering Great Britain. However, the usual entitlement conditions may be modified if the applicant has either come from an EC country and is able to take advantage of EC regulations concerning Social Security for migrant workers or has come from a country with which the United Kingdom has concluded a Reciprocal Social Security Agreement.
Income Support is an exception since it has to serve as a safety net. Entitlement depends on immigration status. All those people who have a right to live in the UK permanently, including those who have been granted refugee status, may receive benefit if they satisfy all other relevant conditions of entitlement. It would be inconsistent to allow people to make their home in this country and then deny them financial support in times of need.
People who are applying for refugee status, that is asylum seekers, are not entitled to benefits under the normal rules. However, decisions on refugee status are very complex and take a long time to determine. While these questions are being considered, such customers can receive Income Support at a reduced rate under the Urgent Cases Rules.
All Benefits Agency offices have comprehensive written guidance on how to deal with claims from people from abroad. Our procedures for processing such claims involve close liaison with the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Department.
I also understand that these people can claim Housing Benefit from their Local Authority subject to the normal rules but this may affect their right to stay in the country.
I hope this information is helpful. A copy will appear in the Official Report and a copy will also be placed in the Library.