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Mr. Burt : A parent with care receiving income support, family credit or disability working allowance is required to authorise the Child Support Agency to obtain maintenance, unless the pursuit of maintenance would risk harm or undue distress to her or any child living with her. Where there is such a risk, the parent with care is not required to give authority.
In all cases the agency will act as a buffer between the parent with care and the absent parent, and will not divulge her address to him.
Mr. Dewar : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) in what proportion of cases the Child Support Agency is currently meeting the performance target it has set itself by writing to parents with an assessment within five working days of receiving all the information needed by both parents.
(2) what steps the Child Support Agency is taking to fulfil the promise in its customer charter to let customers know as a matter of course if there has been undue delay.
Mr. Burt : The administration of the Child Support Agency is the responsibility of its chief executive, Ros Hepplewhite. She will write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. Donald Dewar, dated 24 February 1994 :
I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Questions asking the steps being taken by the Child Support Agency to fulfil its commitments to write to clients with an assessment within five working days ; and to let clients know as a matter of course if there is an undue delay in processing their application.
The Agency is currently monitoring its performance against Charter Standards. At the end of its first year of operation, it will be in a position to determine case clearance times, and to advise clients how long on average the process is likely to take. The Agency will also be in a position to advise clients if there has been undue delay. I hope you find this reply useful.
Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the current backlog for second tier review applications arising out of disputes with the Child Support Agency ; at what rate second tier review applications are being lodged each month ; how many second tier review applications are being cleared each month ; how many post-second tier applications are being sent on to appeal each month ; and what is the average length of time that applicants then wait for an appeal to be heard.
Mr. Burt : The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for Ros Hepplewhite, the chief executive. She will write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Derek Brown to Mr. Frank Field, dated 25 February 1994 :
In her absence, the Chief Executive Mrs. Hepplewhite has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question to the
Column 614Secretary of State for Social Security, asking about the average times taken to process reviews and appeals in the Child Support Agency.
You asked about the position on requests for second tier reviews. At 31 January the Agency had received and cleared the following :
Month |Received|Cleared --------------------------------------------- April to November |8,000 |1,500 December |3,700 |800 January |4,900 |3,500 |--- |--- Total |16,600 |5,800
The number of reviews requested has increased over the last three months. This is as expected, and reflects the significant increases in the number of assessments now being processed by the Agency. Requests that had been received but not processed are being actioned. The Agency has increased the number of staff undertaking this work, and significant progress is being made. During January four times as many cases were processed as in the preceding month. Finally you asked about appeals. Appeals are primarily a matter for the Independent Tribunal Service which is an Independent Statutory Authority. I understand that, to the end of January 1994, a total of 611 appeals had been lodged, of which 82 cases had been heard by the Child Support Appeal Tribunal. Figures are not currently available on the proportion of these that had already been subject to a second tier review. Given, however, that the only category of client who has a right of appeal direct to the Tribunal are those appealing against a decision to impose a reduced benefit direction, it is likely that a large majority of appeals had already been subject to a second tier review.
The President of the Independent Tribunal Service informs me that information on the average length of time applicants wait for an appeal to be heard is not available. The average length of time from receipt of an appeal to the date the tribunal decision is, however, 17 weeks.
I hope this reply is helpful.
26. Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what representations he has had in relation to the operations of the Child Support Agency.
Mr. Burt : Between April 1993 and 16 February 1994 the Department of Social Security and the Child Support Agency headquarters received 13,715 written representations covering a range of views about child support policy and Child Support Agency operations.
The cost of establishing the number of written representations made to Child Support Agency centres and field offices would be disproportionately high. The number of representations made in person or by telephone is not recorded.
24. Mr. Spring : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many families receive family credit ; and how many received family income support in 1978-79.
Mr. Burt : In September 1993, 515,000 families were receiving family credit compared with only 78,000 receiving family income supplement in March 1979.
Sir Michael Neubert : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the current average award for family credit.
Mr. Burt : The average weekly award is £43.30.
Source : Five per cent. sample of Family Credit recipients as at 31 May 1993.
25. Mr. Jonathan Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the estimated cost of uprating the retirement pension in 1994-95.
Mr. Hague : The estimated cost is £717 million.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proposals he has for a real increase in pensions in the current year.
Mr. Hague : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the full uprating of pensions in line with
Column 616inflation from April, plus extra help with the cost of VAT on fuel, amounting to 50 p a week for single pensioners and 70 p for couples.
Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what percentage of people in receipt of state pensions receive less than 100 per cent. of the full pension ; and what number of people this represents ;
(2) what is the average percentage of state pension received by those in receipt of less than 100 per cent. of the full state pension.
Mr. Hague : The available information is in the tables.
Number of retirement pensions in Great Britain Category of pension |Number with |Number with less |Percentage |Average percentage |retirement pension |than 100 per cent. |receiving less than |for persons in |basic retirement |100 per cent. |receipt of less than |pension |100 per cent. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- All retirement pensions |9,581,660 |1,085,450 |11 |62 Category A men |3,293,560 |161,030 |5 |76 Category A women |2,336,620 |666,780 |29 |56 Category BL wives |1,330,740 |45,790 |3 |74 Category ABL wives |628,490 |2,930 |- |85 Category B widows |1,884,860 |61,530 |3 |79 Graduated pensions only |134,130 |134,130 |100 |N/a Additional pensions only |13,260 |13,260 |100 |N/a N/a-Not available.
The percentage of people residing overseas Category of pension |Number with retire- |Number with less |Percentage |Average percentage |ment pension |than 100 per cent. |receiving less than |for persons in |basic retirement |100 per cent. |receipt of less than |pension |100 per cent. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- All retirement pensions |613,860 |550,120 |90 |14 Category A Men |234,880 |212,540 |90 |17 Category A Women |154,540 |140,660 |91 |15 Category BL Wives |108,690 |98,770 |91 |6 Category ABL Wives |32,190 |24,520 |76 |1 Category B Widows |75,690 |65,760 |87 |13 Graduated pensions only |7,040 |7,040 |100 |N/A Additional pension only |830 |830 |100 |N/A Notes: <1> Figures given are for people of contributory Retirement Pension (including Graduated Retirement Pension or Additional Pension only) at 31 March 1993 excluding widowers receiving Category B pension (total number at 31 March 1993 is 750). <2> Category A pension is payable on a person's own contributions. <3> Category BL pension is payable to a married woman based on her husband's contributions-the standard rate is approximately 60 per cent. of the standard Category A rate. <4> Category ABL pension is payable to a married woman based on her own and her husband's contributions-the standard rate is the same as that for Category BL. <5> Category B pension is payable to surviving spouses on the basis of their late spouses' contributions-the standard rate is the same as that for Category A.
Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to the Budget speech of 30 November, Official Report, column 1037, if pensioners who do not receive 100 per cent. of a state pension will receive the full 50 p addition in respect of VAT on fuel ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hague : The extra help towards VAT on fuel will be included in the standard rate of basic retirement pension. The rate of pension is reduced where basic pension entitlement is less than 100 per cent. This will have the effect of reducing the extra help in proportion to the percentage rate of basic pension entitlement.
The standard married woman's rate of basic retirement pension, based on her husband's contributions, will be increased by 20p per week thereby providing pensioner couples in receipt of the standard rate with an overall additional increase of 70p per week.
Column 616As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear in his speech, all pensioners on income support will receive the full 50p single and 70p for couples, whether or not they are entitled to a reduced rate retirement pension.
Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what gross weekly cost his Department estimates will be incurred by the increase of all state pensions to compensate for the imposition of VAT on domestic fuel in each week during April.
Mr. Hague : The information is not available in the form requested.
It is estimated that the average gross weekly cost from 11 April, when the 1994 uprating will become effective, will be approximately £4 millon.
27. Mr. Alan Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many, and what proportion of, applicants for disability working allowance in the last 12-month period for which information is available, were disqualified because of their earnings or rise in family income.
Mr. Scott : Out of a total of 12,665 applications received between December 1992 and November 1993, 850 new and repeat claims were disallowed because their income exceeded the level of disability working allowance. This represented a proportion of 6.7 per cent.
29. Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the Government's assessment of the extent and scale of poverty prevailing in the United Kingdom ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Burt : Statistics on patterns of household disposable income, for the United Kingdom are provided in "Households Below Average Income 1979-1990/91", published in June 1993, a copy of which is in the Library.
30. Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioner households were in the bottom decile of income distribution in 1979 and in the latest year for which figures are available.
Mr. Hague : The information is in the table :
Numbers of pensioner families with incomes in the bottom decile of income distribution (000s) |1979 |1990-91 --------------------------------------------- Before housing costs Couples |510 |290 Single |890 |620 All |1,400 |910 After housing costs Couples |550 |160 Single |580 |290 All |1,200 |450 Notes: 1. Estimates are based on the Family Expenditure Surveys, rounded to nearest 10,000. 2. Numbers relate to pensioner benefit units.
Sir Teddy Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessments he has made of the operation of social funds within benefits agencies ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Scott : The operation of the discretionary social fund is monitored routinely. We believe that the basic principles of the fund are right and working well, but we continue to evaluate its effectiveness and to introduce operational improvements as required.
Lady Olga Maitland : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what representations he has received about the current value of the assets held by the average pensioner household ; and what was the comparable position in real terms in 1978-79.
Mr. Hague : We do not have information on the capital value of pensioners' assets. The estimated average weekly income which pensioners received from their savings or investments are in the table.
Year |Couples|Singles|All<1> ---------------------------------------- 1979 |£16.20 |£8.60 |£11.20 1990-91 |£45.10 |£21.60 |£30.30 <1> Single people over state pension age and couples where the husband is over state pensions age.
All estimates derive from the family expenditure survey and are at 1990-91 prices. Averages are across all pensioners, whether or not receiving an income from savings or investments.
Mr. David Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the cost of the long-term unemployed to his Department in 1993.
Mr. Burt : The cost of those receiving benefit for more than six months cannot be separated from the planned total benefit expenditure of unemployed people which for the year April 1993 to April 1994 is £10.39 billion.
The information is taken from table 5 of the 1993 departmental annual report which is in the Library. The 1994 annual report will be published shortly and will be placed in the Library.
The benefits included are : unemployment benefit, income support, family credit, child benefit, one parent benefit, housing benefit, community charge benefit, and social fund loans.
Mr. Dykes : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what account the 1994 uprating benefits for pensioners and sick and disabled people has taken of the rate of inflation.
Mr. Hague : The uprating of benefits from April 1994 is based on the movement in the retail prices index over the preceding September-to- September period. In addition to price indexation, the standard weekly rates of basic retirement and invalidity pensions, severe disablement allowance and income support for sick and disabled people will be increased by 50p single rate or 70p couple rate to provide extra help for VAT on domestic fuel.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security in which area of benefits he proposes to make cuts.
Mr. Hague : I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's statement to the House on 1 December 1993 at columns 1037-59 announcing a full uprating of benefits, substantial extra help towards VAT on fuel and proposals for the reform of a number of benefits. The subsequent Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 1994 was approved by the Commons on 16 February, and will be debated by the Lords on 28 February.
We continue to keep social security under review to ensure that we have the kind of system which will serve the country well into the next century.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to increase family allowances ; and by how much.
Mr. Burt : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already announced that child benefit will be increased in line with prices from April 1994. The rates will increase to £10.20 for the eldest eligible child in the family and £8.25 for each other child.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proposals he has to increase the disability allowance.
Mr. Scott : On 1 December 1993 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced increases in disability living allowance, attendance allowance and disability working allowance from April 1994 as part of the annual uprating of all social security benefits.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of public appointments made by his Department in 1993 were of women ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hague : For the year ended 31 August 1993, 47 per cent. of all new appointees were women.
In support of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's public appointments initiative, this Department set a goal for 40 per cent. of new appointees to public bodies to be women. This goal has been exceeded, increasing the overall percentage of women holding public appointments from 27 per cent. in 1991 to 32.5 per cent. in 1993.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he intends to introduce legislation allowing employees who have an occupational pension plan an annual statement of the valuation of their savings ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hague : The Government are considering, in the light of the report of the Pension Law Review Committee, the whole question of what information should be provided to members of occupational pension schemes, either routinely or on request. Under current legislation members of defined contribution occupational pension schemes already receive an annual statement showing the value of the member's rights and members of defined benefit schemes have a right to request one.