Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Seventh Report


APPENDIX 5

Memorandum by the Department of Social Security

SOCIAL SECURITY (CLAIMS AND INFORMATION) REGULATIONS 1999 (S.I. 1999/3108)

  1. The Social Security Administration Act 1992 as amended by the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 (the "1999 Act") and the 1999 Act itself provide, inter alia, for the making of regulations in relation to certain functions of Local Authorities. These are: the carrying out of voluntary work-focused interviews; the sharing of functions with regard to claims for prescribed benefits; for the sharing of information supplied for social security purposes; and the supply of information for certain other purposes. Specifically these powers are contained within Sections 2C, 7A, 189(1), (4) and (5) and 191 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 and sections 72 and 83(1) and (4) and (8) of the 1999 Act. Sections 2C and 7A of the Social Security Act 1992 were introduced by sections 58 and 71 of the 1999 Act.

  2. The Social Security (Claims and Information) Regulations 1999 are made under those powers. They are concerned with: functions conferred on Local Authorities in relation to work-focused interviews; additional provisions in relation to claims for War Pensions and applications for Child Support; amendments to the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987 in relation to claims for jobseeker's allowance, income support, incapacity benefit, invalid care allowance, severe disablement allowance, widow's benefit, bereavement benefits and disability living allowance; amendments the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 and the Council Tax Benefit (General) Regulations 1992 in relation to claims for those benefits; and new provisions relating to the supply, holding and use of information concerning social security matters.

  3. These Regulations have been laid today and, exceptionally, will come into force before the expiry of 21 days, on 29 November 1999. The Department apologises to the Committee for the short time between the laying and coming into force of these Regulations. This is due to delays in the passage of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill, which did not receive Royal Assent until 11 November. The Committee will wish to note that the reason for bringing these provisions into force on 29th November is that Ministers had already given commitments to launch the one project in 8 areas of the country on 29 November 1999, and the Department has for some months been working towards a launch on that date. The launch involves a number of private sector providers and local authorities who were also committed to this launch date.

  4. The IT changes needed to support these changes also need to be in advance of the Millennium Operating Regime (beginning in December 1999) so as to avoid any possibility of technical difficulties with our computer systems.

  5. The Regulations are designed to support the new service which has been given the name "one". one will offer a streamlined, integrated service to benefit claimants and provide them with the opportunity to access help and advice designed to facilitate a return to work. The new service should enable claimants to have all of their benefits needs dealt with at one time and in one place. At present some claimants may have to deal with as many as four different organisations and often have to provide the same information on each occasion. These Regulations will ensure that there are no impediments to us offering this improved service, which is currently being piloted in selected areas of the country.

  6. The powers under which these Regulations are made are, in the majority of cases, being exercised for the first time. A commentary on the Regulations therefore follows.

Citation and Commencement

  7. Regulation 1 provides that these Regulations will be called the Social Security (Claims and Information) 1999 and will come into force on 29 November 1999.

Interpretation

  8. Regulation 2 provides interpretations for terms used in the Regulations.

Work-focused interview

  9. Regulation 3 provides that a work-focused interview is an interview carried out for any or all of the following purposes: assessing a person's prospects for employment; assisting or encouraging him to enhance those prospects; identifying activities which he may undertake to enhance his employment prospects; identifying current or future employment or training opportunities; and identifying educational opportunities connected with a person's existing or future employment prospects or needs.

Additional functions of local authorities

  10. Regulation 4 provides that those Local Authorities listed in Part 1 of Schedule 1 to these Regulations may carry out work-focused interviews or provide assistance to a person who has agreed to an interview or requested help. Paragraph (2) provides that this applies to claimants living in areas covered by the post codes listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Regulations. Paragraphs (3) and (4) provide that this applies to people claiming or entitled to income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit, widow's benefit, bereavement benefits, incapacity benefits, severe disablement allowance; invalid care allowance; a jobseeker's allowance; disability living allowance. Paragraph (5) provides that consent to the interview may be given to the local authority, a person or authority who is a designated authority for the purposes of section 2A(8) of the Administration Act or a person designated an employment officer under section 9 of the Jobseekers Act 1995. Paragraph (6) provides that a Local Authority, in the process of carrying out a work-focused interview, may also obtain information or evidence for the purpose of the interview, may arrange for the interview to be carried out by the Secretary of State or a person providing services to the Secretary of State or a person providing services to or authorised to exercise any function of a Local Authority, may forward information supplied to any person carrying out the interview, may take steps to identify potential employment or training opportunities for the claimant, may take steps to identify obstacles to work or educational opportunities which may remove those obstacles and may record information supplied at the interview.

Further provisions as to claims

  11. Regulation 5 inserts two new provisions into the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987. New Regulation 4A provides that people living in the areas of Local Authorities listed in Part I or II of Schedule 1 to the Social Security (Claims and Information) regulations and in a postcode district listed in Part I or II of Schedule 2 to those Regulations may make a claim for a jobseeker's allowance, for income support, incapacity benefit, invalid care allowance, severe disablement allowance, widow's benefit, bereavement benefits or disability living allowance at any office displaying the one logo (whether or not that office is within the area of the claimant's Local Authority). Paragraph (3) provides that claims, other than claims for income support or jobseeker's allowance, shall be in writing on a form approved by the Secretary of State or in such other written form as is accepted by the person taking the claim. For income support and jobseeker's allowance the existing provisions in regulation 4(1A) to (1C) apply. Paragraph (5) clarifies that references to the "appropriate office" will include any office displaying the one logo to which claims may be made in accordance with Paragraph (1). Paragraph (6) defines "participating authority" as any local authority or person to whom claims may be made. New Regulation 4B provides that a participating authority may record social security information provided by a person attending a one office and may supply information or advice in relation to any social security matter to any person claiming the benefits listed in Regulation 4A(2). It also provides that participating authorities will forward claims, other than housing benefit claims to the Secretary of State together with any information or evidence relating to any other social security matter, excluding information relating to housing benefit and council tax benefit.

War Pensions and Child Support

  12. Regulation 6 provides that a person living in the area of a local authority listed in Part I or II of Schedule 1 to these Regulations and covered by a postcode listed in Part I or II of Schedule 2, may claim a war pension or apply for child support maintenance to any office displaying the one logo. He may also report a change of circumstances to that office. He must comply with all existing requirements in the legislation relating to War pensions or Child Support and provide the necessary evidence and information. Paragraph (5) provides that the participating authority will forward claims, applications, details of changes in circumstances, and any information or evidence which has been given to them, or which they hold, to the Secretary of State. Paragraph (6) defines "participating authority" for the purpose of this regulation as any authority or person to whom a claim may be made, or a change reported, in accordance with paragraph (1).

Holding information

  13. Regulation 7 provides that a relevant authority to whom information or evidence is supplied may make a record of that information or evidence and may hold it. ("relevant authority" is defined in the primary legislation as a Minister of the Crown , a person providing services to a Minister of the Crown, a local authority, a person providing services to a local authority or a person authorised to exercise any function of a local authority in relation to housing or council tax benefit.)

Provision of information

  14. Regulation 8 provides that a relevant authority may give advice or information on a claim for war pension or social security benefits or an application for child support, or any decision on a claim, to a claimant, or to someone acting on his behalf. The relevant authority may obtain information from another relevant authority in order to give this advice or information.

Claims for Housing Benefit

  15. Regulation 9 inserts two new regulations into the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987. The first, Regulation 72B, provides that in addition to claiming Housing Benefit from their local authority a person may make a claim at any office displaying the one logo. This provision applies to people living in an area covered by a post code listed in Part I or II of Schedule 2 to these Regulations. Paragraph (2) defines "relevant authority" for the purposes of the new Housing Benefit provision. Paragraph (3) provides that a claim shall be in writing on a form approved by the relevant authority or in such other written manner as is considered to be sufficient in the circumstances and may be sent or delivered to a local authority. Paragraph (5) provides that claims received by a relevant authority, other than the claimant's own local authority, will be forwarded to the designated office. Paragraph (6) provides that the date on which a Housing Benefit claim is made will be the date the claim is received in a relevant office or, where the intention to claim was made known to the relevant office within the four preceding weeks, the date that intention was made known. Paragraph (8) provides that the notification of intention to claim date will only apply where Housing Benefit is not claimed in conjunction with income support or a jobseeker's allowance. Paragraph (9) provides that where the claimant or their partner has claimed or receives income support or a jobseeker's allowance, the date of claim will be determined as if sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (e) of paragraph (1) of regulation 72A applied to the claim as they apply under Regulation 72(4)(d). Paragraph (10) amends references within existing paragraphs (6) to (17) of regulation 72. The second, Regulation 72C, provides that where a claim is made at an office which is both a relevant office and a gateway office, the claim will be treated as if it had been sent or delivered to a relevant office only.

Consequential Amendments to the Housing Benefit Regulations

  16. Regulation 10 provides for consequential amendments to the Housing Benefit Regulations. For example, paragraph (2) introduces a definition of "relevant authority" into those Regulations. Paragraph (3) amends Regulation 71 so as to provide that claims to benefit from people living in areas covered by the postcodes in Part I or II of Schedule 2 to the Claims and Information Regulations may be made to a relevant authority.

Claims for Council Tax Benefit

  17. Regulation 11 inserts two new provisions into the Council Tax (General) Benefit Regulations 1992. The first, Regulation 62B, provides that people living in an area covered by the postcodes listed in Parts I and II of Schedule 2 may, in addition, make a claim for Council tax Benefit at any office displaying the one logo. Paragraph (2) defines a "relevant authority" for the purposes of Regulation 62B as an appropriate social security office, a person providing services to the Secretary of State for Social Security or Education and Employment, the appropriate Local Authority, a person providing services to that authority or authorised to exercise any of the functions of that authority in relation to Council Tax Benefit. Paragraph (3) provides that the claim must be made in writing on a form approved by the relevant authority, or otherwise in such written manner as is considered sufficient in the circumstances, and must be supported by such evidence as is required by Regulation 63(1). Paragraph (5) provides that claims received by a relevant authority, other than the claimant's own local authority, will be forwarded to the designated office. Paragraph (6) provides that the date on which a Council Tax Benefit claim is made will be the date the claim is received in a relevant office or, where the intention to claim was made known to the relevant office within the four preceding weeks, the date that intention was made known. Paragraph (8) provides that the notification of intention to claim date will only apply where Council Tax Benefit is not claimed in conjunction with income support or a jobseeker's allowance. Paragraph (9) provides that where the claimant or their partner has claimed or receives income support or a jobseeker's allowance, the date of claim will be determined as if sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (e) of paragraph (1) of regulation 62A applied to the claim as they apply under Regulation 62(4)(d). Paragraph (10) amends references within existing paragraphs (6) to (16) of regulation 62. The second new provision, Regulation 62C, provides that where a claim is made at an office which is both a relevant office and a gateway office, the claim will be treated as if it had been sent or delivered to a relevant office only.

Consequential Amendments to the Council Tax Benefit Regulations

  18. Regulation 12 provides for consequential amendments to Council Tax Benefit Regulations. For example, paragraph (2) introduces a definition of "relevant authority" into those Regulations and paragraph (5) amends Regulation 65 so as to provide that people living in areas covered by the postcodes in Part I or II of Schedule 2 to the Claims and Information Regulations may report changes of circumstances to any office of a relevant authority which is displaying the one logo.

Information

  19. Regulation 13 provides that a relevant authority which holds social security information may use the information in connection with New Deals, work-focused interviews, additional functions of local authorities, claims for war pensions and child support, and for purposes connected with the employment or training of the people involved. The relevant authority may supply the information to any other relevant authority for the purpose of a work-focused interview or, in so far as any of that information is relevant, it may be supplied to a prospective employer. Information may also be supplied to an 'employment zone provider', to any other relevant authority in connection with New Deals or any scheme operated by the authority for purposes connected with employment or training. Paragraph (2) provides that an employment zone provider may supply social security information relating to a participant to any other relevant authority. Paragraph (3) provides that information may be passed from the relevant authority receiving the information to another relevant authority where the latter is carrying out a work-focused interview. Paragraph (4) provides that a relevant authority which holds social security information may pass it to another relevant authority for the purpose of research, monitoring or evaluation in so far as it relates to work-focused interviews, additional functions of local authorities, claims for war pensions and child support, and for purposes connected with the employment or training schemes.

Purposes for which information may be used

  20. Regulation 14 provides that information supplied in connection with work-focused interviews or other provisions within these regulations may be used for the processing of any claim for a social security benefit or war pension, or child support application, for the consideration of any application for employment by a client, for the consideration of the training needs of a client, for any purpose for which a work-focused interview may be conducted and for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of offences relating to social security matters.

Information supplied

  21. Regulation 15 provides that information supplied to a person or authority under these Regulations may be used to amend or supplement information already held by them and, if so used, may be supplied to another person or authority and used by them for any appropriate purpose.

Partners of claimants on jobseeker's allowance

  22. Regulation 16 provides that a relevant authority may inform the partner of a claimant for jobseeker's allowance that that allowance has been in payment, or would have been in payment but for section 19 of the Jobseekers Act, for 6 months or more where the relevant authority is inviting that partner to attend the office for purposes connected with employment or training.

Partners of claimants

  23. Regulation 17 provides that, where a claimant receives an increase in jobseekers allowance, income support, incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance in respect of his partner who is over 50 years of age, a relevant authority may supply to that claimant's partner information relating to the fact that the benefit is or has been payable to the claimant and for how long.

Consequentials

  24. Regulation 18 introduces Schedule 3 to these Regulations.

  25. Schedule 1 is in two parts and lists those local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales on which functions are conferred in accordance with Regulation 4 of these Regulations.

  26. Schedule 2 is in two parts and lists those postcode districts which are relevant for the purposes of Regulations 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

  27. Schedule 3 makes amendments to the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations and the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations which are needed as a consequence of the making of the Social Security (Claims and Information) regulations.

22 November 1999


 
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