Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Seventh Report


Second Memorandum by the Department of Social Security

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

  1. The Committee, by a letter from its clerk dated 8th December 1999, requested a memorandum on the following points:

    "(1) Regulation 4(6) provides that for the purpose of carrying out functions under paragraph (1), a local authority may in particular -

    [(b)] arrange for the work-focused interview to be conducted by the Secretary of State, a person providing services to the Secretary of State, or a person providing services to, or authorised to exercise any function of, the local authority;

    [(e) ]conduct a work-focused interview.

    Explain what authorises the provision in sub-paragraph (b); and the need for sub-paragraph (e), given that paragraph (1) provides that a local authority may conduct a work-focused interview."

  2. Section 2C(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, inserted by section 58 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999, enables regulations to confer on local authorities functions in connection with conducting work-focused interviews in cases where such interviews are requested or consented to by persons to whom section 2C applies.

  3. These provisions are piloting new proposals enabling claimants to make claims for a number of specified social security benefits at the offices of a local authority and also to have access to advice and support about employment and training opportunities. Where a work-focused interview is requested the intention is that the interview be carried out by a trained interviewer, whether employed in the Benefits Agency, the local authority or persons providing services to either of them. The provisions of regulation 2(6)(b) are intended to give the local authority the option of providing for the interview to be carried out by a person employed by the Benefits Agency, if that is the most appropriate solution in the circumstances of the particular case.

  4. The power for this provision is in section 2C(1). The power goes wider than simply enabling regulations to provide for the authority itself to conduct the voluntary work-focused interview. The function in this context is that of making arrangements for the conduct of the interview, and this includes arranging for the interview to be carried out by another party.

  5. Regulation 4(6)(e) was inserted to make clear that the local authority could either conduct the interview itself or arrange for it to be conducted by another person.

  6.

    "(2)  In relation to regulation 4(1) and 4(2), new regulation 4A(1) (inserted by regulation 5) and regulation 6(3), indicate -

    whether each of the local authorities specified in Schedule 1 has within its area a postcode district identified in Schedule 2;

    whether each of the postcode districts identified in Schedule 2 falls within the area of a local authority specified in Schedule 1."

  7. There are 12 pilot areas in respect of which the new arrangements will operate which are based upon Benefit Agency districts. These districts are not co-terminous with the areas of local authorities. For example only half of some local authorities will be within the pilot areas; some even less. Every local authority listed in Schedule 1 is either wholly or partially within one of the benefit agency districts and as such will be covered by one or more of the postcode areas specified in Schedule 2. Some will also have postcode areas not specified in Schedule 2 because those postcode areas will be outside the Benefits Agency district area and hence not affected by the initiative. Consequently the answer to the Committee's questions are -

  Yes,

  No.

  8.

    "(3)  Paragraph (6) of the new regulation 4A (inserted by regulation 5) defines a "participating authority" as meaning any local authority or persons to whom claims may be made in accordance with paragraph (1). Given that paragraph (1) provides only that a claim may be made to any office displaying the "one" logo, indicate -

      the persons and bodies to whom claims may be made in accordance with paragraph (1);

      the regulation which (in accordance with section 7A(1) of the Administration Act) identifies those persons and bodies.

      A corresponding question in relation to regulation 6(6)."

  9. The intention of this provision is to allow claims for the benefits specified in paragraph (2) of new regulation 4A to be made to a participating authority, that is to say a local authority or person providing services to, or exercising functions of, a local authority. The claims are to be made at offices which displays the one logo. Prior to these regulations coming into force, those authorities could not take claims for such benefits even if they were being claimed at the same time as a claim for housing benefit or council tax benefit. The intention is to extend the ability of those authorities to accept claims for a wider range of benefits at those offices taking part in the pilots, and so provide claimants with a more integrated service. The intention was for regulation 4A(1) and (6) together to identify the offices of those authorities. The Department accepts the Committee's point that the drafting is defective in this respect. The position with regard to regulation 6 is the same.

  10.

    "(4) New regulation 72B (inserted by regulation 9) provides that, in certain specified cases, claims for housing benefit may be made at the offices of a "relevant authority", defined in paragraph (2) to include [(c)] the appropriate local authority, [(d)] a person providing services relating to housing benefit to the appropriate authority, and [(e)] a person authorised to exercise any function of an appropriate authority relating to housing benefit. Identify the provision in the recital of powers which authorises this provision. A corresponding question in relation to paragraphs (1) and (2)(c) to (e) of new regulation 62B (inserted by regulation 11)."

  11. The powers are in sections 5(1)(a) and 6(1)(a) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. They are indirectly covered in the Preamble by the words "and of all other powers enabling him in that behalf"; the Department accepts however that they should have been specifically identified in the Preamble. The provision also relies in part on the words in section 189(4) of the Social Security Administration Act- "and powers to make ....regulations....for the purposes of any one provision of this Act are without prejudice to powers to make regulations.... for the purposes of any other provision."

  12.

    "(5) New regulation 72B(10) (inserted by regulation 9) provides for paragraphs (6) to (17) of regulation 72 to apply to a claim made to a relevant authority with the modification that references to [(a)] an "appropriate DSS office" are to read "relevant authority". Verify the reference to paragraphs (6) to (17). Is that reference, in relation to sub-paragraph (a), intended to be a reference to paragraphs (3) to (5) of regulation 72? If so, should the reference to a "relevant authority" in that sub-paragraph to have read "relevant office"? (compare new regulation 62B(10(a))."

  13. The intention behind regulation 72B(10) is to apply the provisions of regulation 72(6) to (17) to claims made in accordance with regulation 72B as they apply to claims made in accordance with regulation 72. The reference to the DSS office which is used in paragraph (16) of that regulation does not, as the Committee point out, need to be modified for the purposes of regulation 72B.

  14.

    "(6) Verify the reference, in relation to paragraph (10)(a) of new regulation 62B (inserted by regulation 11), to paragraphs 6 to 16 of regulation 62. Is that reference intended to be a reference to paragraphs (3) to (5) of regulation 62?".

  15. The reference in paragraph (10)(a) of new regulation 62B is intended to be to paragraphs (6) to (16) of regulation 62, reflecting the similar wording in the Housing Benefit Regulations. However as the Committee points out there are no references to these words in these provisions.

General

  16. The provisions in these Regulations are intended to provide for the operation of the voluntary work-focused interviews in the pilot schemes running up to the end of March 2000. In April 2000 it is proposed to bring the compulsory scheme into force, which requires new regulations substantially replacing regulations 4 to 11 of these Regulations. The Department is grateful for the Committee's comments, which so far as relevant to the new regulations, will be taking into account in the drafting of the new provisions.


 
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