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1979-1987 : Mr Major’s Written Parliamentary Answer on Boarders

Below is the text of Mr Major's written Parliamentary Answer on Boarders on 17th December 1986.


Mr. Squire Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proposals he is considering for boarders under the reformed social security scheme; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Major In accordance with the undertaking that I gave to the House on 9 July at column 352, I am today issuing a consultative paper on the future benefit arrangements under the reformed social security scheme for the small minority of supplementary benefit claimants (about 2 per cent.) receiving ordinary board and lodging allowances. Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office.

Many of the difficulties which have arisen in this area stem from differences between the benefit arrangements for supplementary benefit boarders and other claimants which tend to create perverse incentives for landlords and claimants. Recent measures to tighten up the system have brought about improvements which could if necessary enable arrangements to continue on very similar lines into the future. However, the advent of the new income support scheme in April 1988 provides an opportunity to examine the scope for creating a simpler, more coherent framework for benefits to boarders while tackling effectively the problems of incentives and maintaining proper financial controls. The consultative document seeks views on the possibility that boarders as a group should no longer receive special higher rates but should instead be eligible for help with living costs from income support, including the premiums for family responsibilities, lone parenthood, old age and disability, in exactly the same way as other claimants.

Supplementary benefit boarders, like boarders in work and people paying rent, would thus get help with housing costs through housing benefit where it is already proposed to extend and strengthen the financial controls. If, subject to consultation, these proposals were implemented, whether from April 1988 or a later date, the present form of benefit limits would cease, but my Department would continue to apply special fraud and claims control procedures where appropriate. As local authorities are already responsible for help with accommodation costs for boarders in work, the proposals would not create a new responsibility. Nevertheless, the Government remain anxious to minimise the operational effects on authorities and are particularly anxious to take full account of the views of the local authority associations on these points.

In addition the paper invites comments on the future benefit treatment of people living in hostels. The current rules recognise the special nature of these establishments, and it is for consideration whether residents should continue to receive benefit on the same basis in future, or should be aligned with ordinary boarders or people in homes, in the light of the studies currently under way.

The Government will take careful account of the comments and representations received from the local authority associations and others by 20 February 1987 before reaching any final conclusions.