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Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what amount of money is being spent by the Mid-Glamorgan ambulance NHS trust on its official launch ; and how much the launch reception on 3 May at a south Wales hotel is expected to cost.
Mr. Roger Evans : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners how many people have received discretionary payments under section 5 of the Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure 1994.
Mr. Roger Evans : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners what guidelines have been issued on the procedures to be adopted in determining whether a payment is to be made under section 5 of the Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure 1994.
Mr. Alison : All applications under clause 5 of the Measure are considered individually by a sub-committee of the Pensions Board. The board has, however, established a set of working rules for the sub-committee to follow in such consideration, and these have been agreed with the Church Commissioners.
Mr. Rowe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security for how many regular publications he was responsible in 1993-94 ; what was their circulation ; and how many were obtainable by subscription.
Mr. Scott : This Department, including its agencies, produces an extensive range of printed and other materials each year which could be interpreted as publications. In addition to those listed, a catalogue of leaflets, posters and audio cassettes available to the public--CAT 1--is available in the Library.
Social Security HQ produced in 1993-94 :
Two newspapers--Benefit News for Jobhunters and New Start (Disability Working Allowance). Both had a circulation of about 60, 000 and are available by free subscription.
The Social Security Annual Report is published annually and is available through HMSO to the public. Subscription/sold copies of the report stand at : subscription 238/sets 191.
Statistical publications--11 regular publications :
a. The Abstract of Statistics for Social Security Benefits and Contributions and the Indices of Retail Prices and Average Earnings. Annual publication ; circulation 300.
b. Disability Working Allowance. Quarterly publication ; circulation 120.
c. Family Credit. Quarterly publication ; circulation 120. d. Households Below Average Income Statistics. Annual publication ; circulation 700.
e. Income Related Benefits--Estimates of Take-up. Annual publication ; circulation 400.
f. Income Support Annual Statistical Enquiry. Annual publication ; circulation 200.
g. Income Support Quarterly Statistical Enquiry. Quarterly publication ; circulation 200.
h. Income Support Residential Care and Nursing Home Report. quarterly publication ; circulation 150.
i. Personal Pensions. Annual publication ; circulation 400.
Column 279j. Social Security Statistics. Annual publication ; circulation 1,240.
k. Tax Benefit Model Tables. Annual publication ; circulation 400.
Research publications are produced on a regular basis covering a variety of issues. Twelve publications have been produced in the period 1993-94. The circulation of these is entirely handled by HMSO. No research publications are available by subscription.
The latest social security research yearbook, which gives details of research published up to 1993 is available in the Library. The 1994 yearbook is not yet available.
Publications issued by the Department's agencies are listed separately :
(a) Benefits Agency Annual Report--This is published annually (July) and is available to all staff, local representative and Welfare groups, DSS senior management and Members of Parliament. The print run is approximately 10,000.
(b) Benefits Agency Business Plan (including Who we are and What we do)-- This is an annual publication (April) with broadly the same distribution as the Annual Report. Copies are also distributed on request to various individuals and organisations. The print run this year was 15,000.
(c) Benefits Agency Customer Charter--This is a document monitored by Customer Service Branch with a print run of 250,000. It is available to anyone on request but whilst the content is reviewed and monitored regularly the publication is as and when required. The Agency has issued two versions so far.
(d) Annual National Customer Satisfaction Survey--This is commissioned annually by the Agency and the results are issued April/May. 3,000 copies are produced.
(e) Local Business Plans--Produced by each local business unit for distribution to its customers. They are produced annually and are in place in each district (159). Print runs and distribution size will vary according to individual unit/district.
(f) Local Charter Standard Statements--Produced by each local business unit for distribution to its customers. They are produced annually and are in place in each district. Print runs and distribution size will vary according to individual unit/district. Minimum print run is 2,000 per district.
(g) Staff Charter--This is a twice yearly publication issued to all staff. Print runs varies dependant on demand--usually 70-80,000. All the above publications are available without charge to the recipients.
Child Support Agency
The Child Support Agency produced 56 publications in various printed or audio tape editions during 1993-94. None was a priced publication. They were available to the public and staff alike to outlets such as agency or social security offices, post offices, advice agencies or mailing houses.
(a) The Business Plan, Annual Report and Accounts.
(b) Code for Enforcement and Useful Contacts leaflet.
(c) Contributions Charter.
None of the above is a priced publication and all are freely available upon request from local social security offices.
(a) Annual report 1992-93 published September 1993 ; circulation 1, 000.
(b) Business Plan 1994-95 published March 1994 ; circulation 500. Both publications were circulated to Parliament and grant recipients.
Information Technology Services Agency
Column 280(a) Annual Report and Accounts 1992-93-- circulation through HMSO ; quantity 210.
(b) Annual Business Plan 1993-94--this is not a period publication and is circulated internally. It is, however, available on request. Neither publication is on subscription.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what plans there are to create uniform housing benefit forms for all local authorities, how much money such a move would save ; and if he will make a statement ;
(2) what estimates he has as to how many different housing benefit forms are produced by local authorities ; and what is the cost to each local authority of having to create their own forms.
Mr. Hague : When upon entitlement to income support a claim is made to housing benefit, a standard Benefits Agency claim form is used. There are no plans to create further uniform housing benefit claim forms and the Department has no estimate of the number of such forms used by local authorities. Information about the cost of local authority forms is not available.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the latest figures for people claiming housing benefit who are (a) receiving unemployment benefit, (b) receiving income support and (c) in a low income bracket ; what estimates there are of how many more people may be entitled to these benefits but are not claiming them ; and if he will make a statement.
|Number --------------------------------------------------- (a) Unemployment Benefit<2> |141,000 (b) Income Support<2> |2,590,000 (c) in a low income bracket<3> |1,629,000 Sources: <1> The May 1992 annual 1 per cent Housing Benefit Management Information System and Income Support enquiries. <2> The publication "Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-up in 1990 and 1991" a copy of which is in the Library. Notes: 1. The number of recipients has been rounded to the nearest thousand and is for benefit units. A benefit unit may be a single person or a couple. 2. Approximately 41,000 cases receive both unemployment benefit and income support. 3. Low income bracket has been defined as all recipients who are not in receipt of either income support or unemployment benefit. 4. Estimates for take-up of unemployment benefit or for housing benefit by income type are not available.
Estimates for the take up of income related benefits can be found in "Income Related benefits--Estimates of Take-up in 1990 and 1991" published on 25 March 1994. These figures show that income support is being claimed by between 77 and 90 per cent. of those eligible to claim.
Table: Average level of maintenance by parent with care benefit status £ per week |1992-93 |1993-94<2> ------------------------------------------------------- PWC on Income Support |23.00<1> |40.00 PWC on Family Credit |- |40.00 PWC not on benefit |- |45.00 Notes: <1> Derived from the May 1992 departmental annual statistical inquiry. The figure is rounded to the nearest pound. <2> 1993-94 data are taken from a sample of cases assessed so far by the Child Support Agency and should be treated as provisional. Figures have been rounded to the nearest £5.
Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what representations he has received during the consultation process on the proposed medical assessment of incapacity about the importance of taking into account the degree of pain a person suffers ; to what extent he considers pain to be a factor in a person's ability to work ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Scott : I have received a number of such representations. Pain is an important factor in the assessment of incapacity for work. The new test of incapacity will take account of the effects of pain as well as other less obvious factors such as stress, fatigue and variability.
The figures come from a 5 per cent. sample of family credit awards.
The available information is as follows : As of 31 March 1994, the latest date for which figures are available, the estimated number of war pensions in payment was 296,303. This includes 49,556 pensions in payment to war widows.
Column 2821992-93 it is estimated that the proportion of Great Britain expenditure on unemployment benefit in Scotland was £157 million.
Mr. Watson : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what effect he expects the closure of the severe hardship unit in Glasgow to have on the success rates of 16 and 17-year-old applicants for severe hardship allowance ;
(2) what benefits, other than of a financial nature, he expects to accrue to his Department as a result of the closure of the severe hardship unit in Glasgow.
Mr. Burt : The severe hardship unit in Glasgow has not been closed. From April 1994, specially trained officers in local district offices have delegated authority to make decisions on severe hardship. However, certain types of decisions will still be referred to the unit, in particular, any decision to withhold an award of income support.
It is not expected that these changes will influence the success rate. This partial devolution is intended to improve the service by accelerating the decision making process and rendering it more personal to the customer. Results will continue to be monitored.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what plans he has to introduce a uniform system between benefit offices for treating claimants ; and if he will make a statement ; (2) what plans he has to make initial access to claiming benefits easier, and to alter the present system of forms into an easier, more comprehensible format ; and if he will make a statement.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Peter Pike, dated 27 April 1994 :
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions asking i) what measures are being taken to introduce a uniform system between benefit offices for treating claimants and ii) what plans there are to make initial access to claiming benefits easier and to alter the present system of forms into an easier, more comprehensible format.
The Secretary of State announced on 9 September last year a national programme to move towards a "One Stop" service for all the benefits processed by the Benefits Agency. This decision followed overwhelmingly positive responses from our customers and our staff to a discussion paper which we had published the previous year. The first stage of "One Stop" is a "One Place Programme". Some offices are already offering this service and by July of this year it will be in place in all BA local offices.
The One Place Programme will mean that customers will be able to : * obtain advice and information on all benefits from their local Benefits Agency office ;
Column 283* lodge a claim for any BA benefit at a local office (regardless of where that benefit is processed), report a change of circumstances and receive reliable advice about the claim to benefit from that local office.
To ensure a consistent and acceptable service is available from all our outlets the Agency has distributed to all managers--and shared with customer organisations--a national Customer Service Definition, expanding on our Customer's Charter, which sets out the minimum level and scope of service to be delivered by all Districts by July 1994. You asked specifically about our plans to alter the present system of forms into an easier, more comprehensible format. The BA has its own Document Design Unit which remains committed to the principles of Plain English, clear layout and colour to produce user friendly forms and claim packs. Over the past two years the unit has been reviewing the whole of District office typist's draft letters. This has been a massive undertaking resulting in the rewriting of nearly 1,200 letters and is now nearing completion.
It should be noted that the unit is among the leading prize winners in the Plain English Awards, having won the award six times between 1983 and 1991 and, in 1992, the International Council of Graphic Design Association awarded BA Document Design Unit its International Award for Excellence for "continued excellence over eight years", the first time it was awarded to an organisation in the UK and the first time to a Government Department anywhere in the world.
In order to test the effectiveness of our products all new claim packs and claim forms for major changes such as a new benefit are subjected to independent market research before the final versions are produced.
In addition, as part of the One Stop programme we are introducing an improved computer system--Integrated Benefit Information System (IBIS)--to support staff giving benefits information and personal benefit advice to customers. Part of the functionality planned for this new system in due course will be to capture the information supplied by the customer during an advisory interview and pre-print an acceptable claim form that the customer need only check and sign if they wish, on the basis of the advice they have received, to claim benefit. Pilots of this system in a number of offices have shown that this service is appreciated by many customers.
I hope you will find this reply helpful.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what levels of liaison are encouraged or practiced between Employment Service offices, DSS benefit offices and local authority housing benefit offices to ensure claimants are aware of all their claiming rights ;
(2) what plans there are to encourage more inter-relations between the various points of contact to claimants of benefits, with particular reference to the Employment Service offices and local authority housing benefit departments.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Peter L. Pike, dated 27 April 1994 :
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking about the current levels of liaison, and plans undertaken to improve liaison between DSS benefits offices, the Employment Service and housing benefit offices.
The Employment Service and local authorities have specific and distinct responsibilities for the administration of Unemployment Benefit and of Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit respectively. However, as part of our programme to improve customer service, we are working with the Employment Service and local authorities to achieve a more seamless interface between our distinct responsibilities. For example :
(1) In a number of districts we have out-station BA staff in Employment Service offices--and in two districts in local authority advice centres--to give customers advice on BA benefits.
Column 284(2) Claim forms for Income Support by the unemployed can now be lodged at job centres as well as at BA offices.
(3) We have improved our liaison arrangements with local authorities and each District now has a Service Level Agreement with the local authorities in its area.
(4) From June this year the main computer systems supporting Income Support and Unemployment Benefit will be linked allowing the faster and automatic transmission of information and payment instructions between the two agencies.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what were the target savings in the year 1993-94 to be achieved by the extension of automatic credit transfer to (a) child benefit and (b) pensions ; and whether those targets were achieved.
Mr. Burt : The administration of child benefit and pensions is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Jim Cousins, dated 27 April 1994 :
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your Parliamentary Question about savings targeted and achieved from the extension of Automated Credit Transfer (ACT) to child benefit and pensions.
Individual benefits were not set targets for the savings to be achieved by the extension of ACT. However, targets were set in terms of the percentage increase in ACT take-up to be achieved by 1995-96 and these are (a) 3 per cent. for Child Benefit and (b) 2 per cent. for Pensions.
In the period from 31 March 1993 to 1 March 1994 the level of ACT take-up increased by (a) 1.3 per cent. for Child Benefit, from 22.4 per cent. to 23.7 per cent., and (b) by 2 per cent. for Pensions, from 27 per cent. to 29 per cent. I should add that the figures for Pensions exclude overseas cases and those where Retirement Pension has been combined with Income Support for payment purposes. I hope you find this reply helpful.