Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380 - 399)




  380. Could I ask you about some of the practical aspects, particularly budgeting loans and crisis loans? If I was applying for a budgeting loan or a crisis loan and I came into one of your offices, what grade of official would meet me?
  (Mr Watson) It would depend on the circumstance set up in that particular office. If you are walking straight off the high street—

  381. I am talking about a difficult case.
  (Mr Watson) If you were a difficult case I think it would be quickly identified that you, Mr Kirkwood, were a rather challenging case and an executive officer would typically become involved in understanding your needs and what it is you require.

  382. Off the street, if I am in gentle mode and I come and meet you, what grade of official would be at the desk?
  (Mr Watson) Typically at the front desk that would be an administrative officer.

  383. And in the Chilterns what do you pay them per year?
  (Angela Eagle) I have to say, Chairman, we did inherit a system where some of our lower-graded officials are working at the front desk which is why our Focus on Delivery initiative has been sending more management grades out to the front end in order to strengthen the support, and why we are doing a lot of work with adviser staff to try to beef up the support we can give at the front desk.

  384. Obviously, some of these questions are very complicated and some of the cases are very difficult, particularly in London. Chilterns may be an unusual example because some of the procedures may be handled in Glasgow but the point is that the evidence we have had is that there is quite a high turnover of grades at that level, putting it mildly, and that means you are investing money in training, then putting people into difficult situations and getting a high turnover of staff. Is that something that would worry a manager like Mr Watson in terms of the long-term profile of the staff compliment dealing with this difficult work?
  (Mr Watson) Trying to answer your earlier question first, and then coming back to this one—

  385. I am genuinely not trying to be difficult.
  (Mr Watson)—For an administrative officer, AO would be the term used in the memorandum of evidence, it ranges from a minimum on the national scale of just over £11,000 a year to a maximum of £14,000. Depending on what part of London, whether it is inner or outer, there are extra allowances there so the maximum for a person in inner London would be £17,260.

  386. So somebody coming in off the street in Kensington North would meet somebody paid £17,000 a year maximum?
  (Mr Watson) Yes.

  387. And in Hendon?
  (Mr Watson) With Hendon you are challenging me a little bit but that is in the outer rim of London rather than inner so, subject to their experience and how long they have been with us, that would be £16,460.

Mr Dismore

  388. That is the maximum?
  (Angela Eagle) The figures I have for turnover at national level are 1 per cent at EO level and 5 per cent at AO level but, clearly, there will be some variation between districts on that.


  389. Is an AO or the person who is in these kind of categories dedicated to this kind of work?
  (Angela Eagle) If they were a Social Fund officer then they would be dealing with the Social Fund for a period of time.

  390. But they would not be an administrative grade?
  (Mr Watson) What we now call them are local decision-makers and they will typically concentrate on matters of discretion, particularly within the Community Care Grant. Those would be executive officers.

  391. How much do they get paid?
  (Mr Watson) I will refer to my list. Again I will give you the national scales, it is a minimum of £14,410 to a maximum of £19,430. If you are in Hendon, for example, outer London, the minimum is just over £16,000 to a maximum of £21,320.

Mr Dismore

  392. What about turnover in London?
  (Mr Watson) As the Minister has indicated, and she has given you the average—
  (Angela Eagle) It is higher in London. I cannot give you the London figures off the top of my head.

Ms Buck

  393. Could we have a regional break-down?
  (Angela Eagle) We could get you a regional break-down, yes.[5]


  394. Staying with budgeting loans and crisis loans, have you any idea what proportion of the people applying for crisis loans are applying for them because their ordinary benefit applications have been delayed? Any notion? Any figures? Any vague intelligent guesses?
  (Mr Watson) Applications for crisis loans segment into three basically. A third, typically, are people who are seeking help who will be waiting for their pay day or their benefit to be determined.

  395. Pay day or benefits?
  (Angela Eagle) It is called alignment—filling-in the gap between when your cheque arrives and when you have applied.

  396. The criteria to assess applications includes the likelihood of applicants being unable to meet repayments; people are refused loans because they are too poor to repay them. Where would you expect people who are refused loans for that reason to go next?
  (Angela Eagle) You mean a crisis loan or a budgeting loan?

  397. I am talking about budgeting loans or crisis loans actually.
  (Angela Eagle) I think it is different.

  398. Let us take budgeting loans first.
  (Angela Eagle) Because of the way we have changed the system, one of the reasons why people are refused a budgeting loan now is if they have not repaid half of their last budgeting loan; there is a cap of £1,000 on what you can owe in the discretionary system. If they did not get a budgeting loan because, say, they owed too much money from the last time they had one, there is a specific Secretary of State direction to staff to see whether crisis loans in that circumstance would be appropriate. Also if a budgeting loan is refused on the grounds that the applicant is too poor to repay it, then it might also lead on to a Community Care Grant but only in some circumstances.

  399. What does the Secretary of State's guidance and direction say if all else fails, the answer is no and you are shown the door? Does the Secretary of State give advice as to what happens next?
  (Angela Eagle) No, because the system has dealt with the application, so there would not be Secretary of State guidelines or anything on that. From my own experience of constituency case work, I would say credit unions or there are sometimes other forms of credit that people can get, and at the absolute worst there is the credit which none of us want them to get.

5   See Ev. pp 151 and 152. Back

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