22 JULY 1972, Page 27

Poor old Custos

Sir: — I fully agree with your wish that the public should know more of the activities of social security special investigators, particularly as such an open policy would evidently be a great help to poor Custos (June 17). Firstly, the code he mentions in "Cohabitation: the A Code," is not the A Code at all, but the AX Code. An abbreviated version of the A Code's 9,000 tedious paragraphs is already available to the general public, but not apparently to Custos. Other codes which might interest him are the V, S, G, LR, and CB. All are quite bulky and the Iparket for them would be minute. In any , case as the flow of official amendments and amendments to amendments is so great they would be out of date very soon after publication.

Custos seems to be unsure of the actual duties of special investigators and if he had read my article in the Daily Telegraph on May 9 it may have helped him; but then of course he obtained his information from those authoritative newspapers the Sun and the People (Custos has not even heard that it is now The Sunday People), both well known for their exposes; usually full frontal ones.

He says "The Department always accepts the verdict of its investigators when they suggest that benefit should be withdrawn." From my own experience this is nonsense. He says that appeal tribunals reject 95 per cent of such verdicts. There are over six million claims for benefit each year, yet despite this high number there were only 23,593 appeals in 1970 and in only 4,563 cases was the allowance increased, This shows I think that members of the Department's staff are doing a difficult job extremely well, that they are usually right; unlike Custos.

He says, "Those in receipt of benefit do not know how to appeal and so never know whether an investigator's verdict is just or not." In fact each time an allowance is withdrawn it is done only after consultation with the Local Office concerned and the claimant is told, and notified, of his or her right of appeal. Custos says that investigators are not obliged to follow the rules of evidence which the police rigidly observe, yet if he had even bothered to read the part of the AX Code you reproduced he would have seen that the Judges Rules are followed in exactly the same way as by the police. From all this one is left wondering just who or what Custos is and where he gets his information from; is he an honorary member of the Claimants Union on the CPAG?

The whole point is, that the special investigators do not set out to prove fraud, but to establish facts; Custos could well learn from them.

"Bird's Farm," Robin Page Barton, Cambs.