Special Welfare Services and Provisions
Supplementary Assistance. A supplementary assistance scheme was inaugurated in 1951 and applies to persons, whether recipients of statutory benefits or not, whose resources are insufficient for the adequate maintenance of themselves and their families and who are unable to help themselves. While the scale of benefits provided by the legislation may be regarded as comparatively generous and in most cases reasonably adequate for subsistence, it was felt that something more was needed to help those whose special circumstances required a greater measure of financial assistance. Exceptional circumstances in certain cases demand a greater measure of financial support, and this is given by means of supplementary allowances which have regard not only to the resources of applicants but also to financial needs. In general, there are two main types of grant. Where continuing commitments such as rent, food, and fuel are in excess of income, a continuing grant may be made to assist in meeting these recurring and necessary commitments. On the other hand, some non-recurring expense is satisfied by the grant of a lump sum. Continuing grants are usually limited to 35s. a week for unmarried persons and 50s. a week for married couples. Higher rates are paid where justified.
Home Help. To meet the need of aged and sick people of limited means having difficulty in obtaining or paying for essential home help, a service is operated to provide experienced helpers and, according to the financial circumstances of the persons helped, to pay the whole or part of the cost of such help.
Advances for Home Maintenance. Beneficiaries and war pensioners who, due to inadequate financial resources, are unable to carry out maintenance and repair work urgently needed to their homes, may receive advances up to £200 to enable essential work to be done. An advance is made on the security of the home property, and repayment is not required until death of the beneficiary or, if married, of the surviving spouse, or until the earlier disposal of the home. The worry that many old people have in adequately maintaining their properties has consequently been removed in many cases.
Capitalisation of Family Benefit. As adequate housing is a basic pre-requisite for social security, legislative provision was made through the Family Benefits (Home Ownership) Act of 1958 for family benefits to be capitalised and paid in advance to assist parents to own their own homes, to make alterations to existing homes to accommodate larger families and, under certain conditions, to pay off or reduce existing mortgages. Capitalisation is not allowed on the first year of the life of a child or in respect of any period beyond the age of 16 years. The maximum capitalised value of benefit from the age of one year until the age of 16 is £473 16s. Application may be made to capitalise the benefit for any number of children in a family, but in no case can the capitalised amount exceed £1,000 or be less than £200. The purposes for which capitalisation may be approved are:
To erect or purchase a new home; to repay, under certain conditions, mortgages or debts owing on the family home at 1 January 1959; to meet the cost of alterations or additions to a home already owned in order to provide essential living accommodation for the family; to purchase land from the Crown with a dwelling thereon.
Benefit may be capitalised only if the beneficiary (usually the mother) is the sole owner of the property or if the property is settled jointly in the names of husband and wife. In general, the advance is automatically cleared when the child whose benefit has been capitalised reaches the age of 16 years, provided the property has continued to be used as a family home. If, however, circumstances arise whereby the benefit, if it had not been capitalised, would cease to be payable and the property ceases to be used as a family home (e.g. sold or let), reimbursement of the advance will be required. If the child dies within one year of the date of capitalisation, the advance remains as a charge on the property until such time as reimbursement may be required, but if the child dies more than one year after the date of capitalisation, reimbursement will not be required. Applicants for capitalisation must satisfy two main considerations -(a) need of a home, (b) need of financial assistance to help to meet the cost of a home. This measure was primarily designed to promote family welfare.
Counselling and Advice Service. Many people in times of stress due to bereavement, age, sickness, or other circumstances, do not always know the appropriate agency or person to approach with their particular problems and consequently are often denied the help to which they are entitled. Counselling officers have been appointed in each main office to provide a sympathetic service to those whose personal problems are causing distress. Officers of the Department, by reason of their close contacts with all classes of citizens, their wide general knowledge, and liaison with other Government Departments and voluntary organisations, are frequently able to offer helpful advice and service on matters of general welfare besides those with which the Department is directly concerned. Care is taken to ensure that in any case where the problem is one for which specialised knowledge or training is required, the person concerned is referred to the appropriate agency or organisation.
Social Workers. Over the last few years there has been a change in the character and function of the Department. Whereas in former years it was an organisation providing, through the Social Security and War Pensions Acts, standard rates of benefits and pensions to those statutorily entitled to them, irrespective of their commitments, the emphasis in more recent years has been in meeting the needs of the people, having regard to their individual commitments through the provision of cash assistance supplementary to the normal social security benefits, war pensions, and allowances.
With these two approaches to financial security being well established, it has been found necessary to develop a third avenue of approach. The coverage available to the community through a system which provides adequate financial assistance, according to needs as well as means, has established the desirability of focusing attention on the problems of the individuals which become apparent through investigations into their financial needs. Many people come to the Department in times of need and anxiety and are often emotionally distressed: mismanagement, frustration, and ignorance are all factors which militate against security, and an endeavour to counteract these factors by developing more personal contacts has been made by the appointment of trained social workers who bring a more human element into the administration of the law. Social workers can often recognise and define problems which are not always evident to the layman and, if the social security services cannot offer solutions, cases are referred to other appropriate specialised agencies.