The supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for a weekly or monthly supplement to be paid in respect of rent or mortgage interest to any person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. The scheme is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards.
Expenditure on rent supplements in 1999 was £101 million. At the end of 1999, there were 41,873 people in receipt of rent supplement. 1,563 of these were in receipt of back-to-work allowance and a further 1,518 were community employment scheme workers. Together, these amount to 3,081 recipients or 7.4% of the total. Another 12,748 or 29.8% were unemployed and 8,458 or 20.2% were lone parents. A full breakdown by primary social welfare payments is set out in the attached tabular statement.
The cost of the scheme continues to increase mainly because of increases in recent levels. For example, £113.4 million has been provided in the current year's Estimates in respect of rent supplement payments, an increase of £12.4 million or over 12% on the 1999 outturn.
In contrast, the total number of rent supplement recipients increased by approximately 650 – less than 1.6% – during the first nine months of this year.
Another reason expenditure is not falling in line with falling unemployment is the improvements in the arrangements for the retention of rent and mortgage interest supplements which I introduced earlier this year. These changes include disregards in the assessment of means and a tapered withdrawal of the supplement over four years.
The additional cost in a full year of these measures is estimated to be £1.8 million.
The following is the tabular statement giving the number of recipients of rent supplement by primary payment.