Second Memorandum by the
Department of Social Security
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:
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
[(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
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 -
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.