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Supplementary Benefit

Supplementary Benefit was a means-tested benefit in the United Kingdom, paid to people on low incomes, whether or not they were classed as unemployed, such as pensioners, the sick and single parents. Introduced in November 1966, it replaced the earlier system of discretionary National Assistance payments and was intended to 'top up' other benefits, hence its name. It was paid weekly by the DHSS, through giro cheques and order books, or fortnightly by the Unemployment Benefit Office by giro and cashed at local post offices.

Unemployed people were the largest proportion of claimants, usually those who were under the age of 18 and had not yet entered employment, or those who had been unemployed longer than twelve months and exhausted eligibility for Unemployment Benefit. Criticism arose because of the apparent lack of sanctions against unemployed claimants and the perception of a benefits culture.

The benefit was abolished and replaced by Income Support on 11 April 1988, as part of a wider overhaul of the benefits system. This was a significant shift in ethos, moving from a benefit based on circumstances that was customisable to take account of factors such as heating and diet needs to one based on age with very little flexibility, which was easier to computerise.


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