Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department of Social Security (SF 22A)

  When Angela Eagle MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, gave evidence to the Committee on 7 March she agreed to give further details on the following questions and provide some additional background material.


  Ms Buck asked for a regional breakdown of Benefits Agency (BA) staff turnover.

  The table below sets out percentage staff turnover for the Executive Officer and administrative grades for the year ending 31 January 2001, for each BA business unit.
Business Unit Percentage staff turnover—year ending 31 January 2001
AD1 (East London & Anglia)1.97 7.4911.32
AD2 (Chilterns)1.64 7.8413.65
AD3 (London South)1.57 7.2413.23
AD4 (West Country)1.09 5.4813.64
AD5 (Mercia)0.393.09 6.11
AD6 (West Midlands)1.21 5.9411.96
AD7 (Wales)1.242.62 6.65
AD8 (North West Coast)1.02 3.6611.42
AD9 (Greater Manchester)1.64 3.769.49
AD10 (Yorkshire)0.87 3.306.05
AD11 (Tyne Tees)1.00 2.075.47
AD12 (West of Scotland)1.45 3.3613.98
AD13 (East of Scotland)0.59 4.3814.29
Child Benefit Centre2.16 1.356.32
Pensions & Overseas Directorate1.08 2.268.01
Disability & Carer Benefits Directorate 1.844.169.27
BA Central Services0.00 0.000.00
Total1.364.70 10.21


  The Minister agreed to provide the Committee with a copy of recent research into the financial services which are available to the low paid (DSS research report 125 "Saving and Borrowing"). This is attached.


  Ms Buck asked why people seeking a Civil Service post, who do not have full British citizenship, cannot apply.

  Under current law some 75 per cent of civil service posts - including all front-line posts in the BA—are open, in addition to UK nationals, to:

    —  Commonwealth citizens with a work permit;

    —  EEA nationals of other member states and certain members of their families who are non-EEA nationals; and

    —  exceptionally, nationals of other countries who are granted an aliens certificate in accordance with the Aliens' Employment Act 1955.

  The remainder of posts, requiring special allegiance to the state, are reserved for UK nationals as allowed by Article 39(4) of the EC Treaty. Primary legislation is needed to open up more posts to selection on merit regardless of nationality whilst preserving the right to reserve posts where strictly necessary. Whilst such a measure would be uncontentious, it has not so far proved possible to secure a slot in the Government's legislative programme.

  However, at the beginning of the current session of Parliament, the Cabinet Office submitted the Civil Service Nationality Bill (now the Crown Employment (Nationality) Bill) as a Government handout Bill for those MPs who were due to be allocated a place on the list of Private Members' Bills. The Bill secured 19th place on the list and had its First Reading on 17 January. Second Reading will take place on 16 March.

  The Bill covers all civil employment under the Crown. The impact on the Civil Service will be to relax the current nationality regulations so as to open up some 90 per cent of all posts to selection on merit regardless of nationality. Whilst retaining the provision which permits the balance to be restricted to recruits who are UK nationals.


  Ms Buck asked if the level of expenditure on Crisis Loans used for alignment was increasing.

  The table below sets out the Crisis Loan expenditure on living expenses (alignment) over the last three years. These loans are intended to tide people over where there is a gap until their first payment of benefit is due and they are without funds (hence "alignment" to payday—it does not mean there is an administrative delay).
YearExpenditure % of Gross
1999-2000£22.6m 37.3%


  Mr Dismore asked if it would be useful to monitor the ethnic breakdown of Community Care Grant (CCG) applicants.

  The Government is fully committed to ensuring that all vulnerable people, including those from ethnic minorities, receive the service they are entitled to expect from the Social Fund.

  The point of concern was about whether a Social Fund Officer (SFO) from a different cultural background would give priority to an item in a CCG application which the applicant regarded as a high priority because of his cultural background.

  It is important to stress it is not the nature of the item which determines priority of a CCG, it is all the circumstances of an individual application. It is therefore open to an applicant, in the circumstances suggested, to make explicit the link between the item and its importance for religious or cultural reasons. In such circumstances the SFO would give due consideration to those facts.

  We do not currently collect statistical information about the ethnic breakdown of Social Fund applications. As discussed at the hearing the Government are not in principle opposed to collecting such information. However we would want to make sure that any information was collected in such a way as to meet the natural concerns ethnic minority customers might have about the use to which the data might be put. It would also have to satisfy Human Rights and Data Protection requirements. Additionally we would not wish to increase the administrative costs of the Fund.

  Nevertheless we believe that it is an important issue and if the Committee has evidence that raise concerns in this area we will consider the matter further.

13 March 2001

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 4 April 2001