17 JUNE 1972, Page 32


Cohabitation: the "A" code

Custos writes : Below we print some of the rules which govern the activities of investigators hired by the Department of Health and Social Services to inquire into abuse of social welfare benefit by women, widowed and single, 99 per cent of whom have children. These investigators are instructed to use the methods described in the rules to find out whether a given woman in receipt of social security benefit is living with, and being supported by, a man or not. If she is so supported, she is not entitled to benefit. While this, as a matter of principle, seems quite reasonable, the activities of the investigators gives rise to doubt. Recently, the Sun reported that a woman was denied benefit because an investigator discovered a bottle of aftershave lotion on her mantelpiece : the decision was reversed when an appeals tribunal accepted her claim that the bottle was a gift from a non-cohabiting boy friend. In the People of June 4 the main front-page headline was "Sex quiz scandal of bedroom spies."

The Department always accepts the verdict of its investigators when they suggest that benefit should be withdrawn; but appeals tribunals in more than 95 per cent of the cases referred to them reject such verdicts. But the trouble is that those in receipt of benefit usually do not know how to appeal, and so never know whether an investigatory verdict is just or not. The rules for investigators, moreover, u't quire them to inform a subjec of examination of her rights, r 1,°I. this details of their own brief alnarti spect investigators from the Perrulelt: are not obliged to follow the rigliti evidence which the Policelprabitli observe. All this might be tofor the public knew what the 111„,flesr C11 vestigators were: but both Iv'the man and Sir Keith Joseph, asoi cessive Ministers in charge, 90,11111 fused to print these rules, bec,e porN they said, it would not be interest. The Spectator believeshe publication of the rules is in tipfor04,41 interest. It is important thatall ;tteri opinion should exist on the 'wh