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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the amendment seeks to protect the position of those lone parents who are disabled and receiving income support or jobseeker's allowance. The noble Lord and the noble Baroness were concerned because those lone parents receive a disability premium instead of the lone parent premium. They are worried that if their health improves they will not then qualify for the lone parent premium, but will continue instead to receive the ordinary family premium. I entirely sympathise with those concerns. They were my anxieties before the Budget. After all, those vulnerable people are current lone parents. The Government want to protect the position of current lone parents. There has been no difference between us on that fact.

We have listened to concerns over lone parents who have disabilities. The amendment has given me the opportunity and I am happy to clarify what the position is now. We have already laid before Parliament new regulations which achieve the position that this amendment seeks to achieve. I am pleased to inform

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the noble Lord and the noble Baroness that current lone parents who are receiving the disability premium in income support or jobseeker's allowance will now qualify for the lone parent premium, even if they have a break in their benefit claim of up to 12 weeks. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, in the light of that reply I shall, of course, be happy to withdraw my amendment. I am glad that the Government have reconsidered the position which was originally established, and I welcome the assurance which the noble Baroness has just given. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 62A:

Before Clause 73, insert the following new clause--

Claims for secondary benefits

(". After section 1 of the Administration Act there shall be inserted the following new section--
"Claims for secondary benefits.
1A.--(1) This section applies in a case where--
(a) the ability of a person to make a successful claim to a benefit ("the principal benefit") depends on him or some other person being awarded another benefit ("the secondary benefit"); and
(b) a claim for the secondary benefit has been made.
(2) If a person makes a claim for the principal benefit at any time before the end of a period of one month beginning on the day on which notification is given of the award of the secondary benefit--
(a) he shall be treated as having made the claim for the principal benefit on the day with effect from which the secondary benefit is awarded; and
(b) he shall be entitled to the principal benefit for the period between the day with effect from which the secondary benefit is awarded and the day on which he made the claim for the principal benefit.
(3) If a person ("the claimant") makes a claim for the principal benefit before the day on which notification is given of the award of the secondary benefit and the claim for the principal benefit is refused, the Secretary of State or the Adjudication Officer, as the case may be--
(a) shall, on receipt of a written request from the claimant within a period of one month beginning on the day on which notification is given of the award of the secondary benefit; and
(b) may, in any event,
award the claimant the principal benefit with effect from the same day as the day on which the award of secondary benefit has effect."").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment was put down in Committee in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley. She is unable to move it and I move it with her full knowledge and approval. Both the noble Baroness and I felt great pleasure at her inability to move it in Committee, which resulted from the Minister's generous concession on backdating. Nevertheless, the point needs addressing.

The point of Amendment No. 62A is to allow a claim that is dependent on another claim to be backdated to the date from which the principal claim was made. Invalid care allowance is, strictly speaking, a passported benefit. It is characteristic that it is passported on receipt

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of attendance allowance or one of the higher rates of disability living allowance. The procedure at the moment, if you want to get the benefit to run right back to the beginning of the disability, is that you have to put in the claim for invalid care allowance before the disability benefit has been awarded. So you have to put in a claim which is not valid at the time of making it in order to make it become valid thereafter.

We talk about passported benefits, but this is a case where you have to buy your tickets before you have your passport. If you should happen to run into trouble at the Passport Office, that puts you in a pretty pickle. The present system lets the Benefits Agency in for a great deal of unnecessary work. So one argument for the amendment would be administrative tidiness. I have occasionally made remarks at the expense of administrative tidiness, but other things being equal, it is good and something which we should hope to achieve. It is also in the interests of the claimant.

The debt of this country to carers is more than we can ever calculate. I believe the Social Security Select Committee, at the end of the last Parliament, calculated it at £30 billion a year. I have an uncomfortable suspicion that that figure might be an under-estimate. I cannot speak to this amendment in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, would have done, and I shall not attempt to do so, but we should not attempt to discourage carers. That is something which would be very far indeed from the public interest.

There is a special problem affecting carers where an appeal is involved. To take one hypothetical case: someone claims attendance allowance in August 1997; it is turned down, but awarded after appeal in January 1998. The claimant can then claim income support as the applicable amount is higher because of the severe disability premium. The claimant can get backdating for up to three months if he or she satisfies the conditions for a late claim. But if he or she had applied for income support in August 1997, it would have been turned down and then he or she would have to receive backdating to August.

I do not know whether your Lordships followed that rather tortuous example, but if noble Lords did not, then perhaps that is the point. The system is confused. It works against claimants and it creates a great deal of unnecessary administrative work. Since the carer's claim is based on the claim of the person with the disability, a claiming date which links one with the other only recognises the facts of the case. I hope therefore that the Minister may be prepared to look on this with sympathy. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the effect of this amendment would be to allow backdating of a claim to one benefit to the start of the claim for another benefit on which entitlement to the first benefit is dependent.

I recognise the concerns that the noble Earl raised. He addressed them almost entirely in terms of the carer's benefit, ICA, and the benefit on which it is passported, so I shall address my remarks to that. I shall deal with

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double claiming. First, I should explain the term "double claiming". At present we ask carers to claim ICA when caring begins. However, the claim will fail if DLA or AA has not been awarded, as entitlement is dependent on one of these qualifying benefits being in payment. In order to ensure that claimants do not lose benefit once the DLA or AA claim is decided, we allow a further claim for ICA made at that stage to be backdated to the date of the earlier claim or award of the qualifying benefit.

I accept that that sounds tortuous, as described by the noble Earl. Therefore, on the face of it the amendment seems entirely reasonable. However, it would remove any liability on the claimant to make a claim for a benefit at the right time which is, for example, with ICA, when the caring duties start. Allowing for a claim to the benefit to be made after the qualifying benefit has been awarded carries with it the assumption that all the qualifying conditions for the principal benefit have been constant during the past period. That was assumed by the noble Earl when he introduced the amendment. I wish that it were as administratively tidy as the noble Earl suggested. It is not.

For example, the caring might not have been continuously undertaken for at least 35 hours a week during the whole of the past period. The disabled person might have spent some time in hospital so that the caring duties were not undertaken by the carer. Alternatively, the carer might for some period in the preceding time have had earnings in excess of the ICA earnings limit during that period.

Perhaps I may give an example from my personal knowledge. I am sure the experience has been shared by many other people. An individual in my family went on to the highest rate of DLA in July. The family shared the care. It was not until December that one of the family became the principal carer and was therefore eligible for ICA. It would not have been appropriate automatically to backdate that claim to the start of DLA because the caring responsibility was not co-terminous--though it often is--and is not automatically co-terminous with the date that the person starts receiving DLA.

There are therefore three examples: first, where carers share responsibility and then one person becomes the carer; secondly, where a disabled person might have spent time in hospital or, thirdly, where the carer was trying for a time to combine it with waged work which took them above the earnings threshold, and then did not.

I hope that the noble Earl will understand that it is not because we are not sympathetic to the intent behind the amendment, but that we cannot do it in that way. Making the claim for the ICA at the time the caring starts ensures that the carer's position is protected and that he or she can be clear about satisfying the other qualifying conditions for the benefit.

I accept that it is a tortuous process, but we cannot go down the route described by the noble Earl. We have tried to make the "second claim" process therefore as simple as possible. There is already an easement in place to keep inconvenience to claimants to a minimum. The

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disallowance notice on the initial claim to ICA includes a tear-off portion to be returned when DLA or AA is awarded. A further enquiry form is sent out if confirmation of the conditions of entitlement is needed, but there is no need to go through the whole claims process again because receipt of the tear-off is treated as a claim. Again, I know that local benefit offices remind people under those circumstances of their right to ICA.

I hope that, in describing the benefit of ICA as I have, the noble Earl will appreciate that, while we sympathise with the spirit of his amendment, we cannot do it in the way he suggested because of the anomalies that result. However, we are, in a practical way, trying to ensure that claimants take up their ICA at the point at which the caring responsibilities meet the terms of ICA and, alas, that is not just when DLA is taken by the person for whom they are claiming. The two can be synonymous, though they need not be. We have tried to bridge that appropriately in discussions with CLAs. I hope therefore that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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