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Column 759Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. Regulated payments are made for maternity expenses, funeral expenses and heating in cold weather. Discretionary payments can be made in other cases, which comprise community care grants, budgeting loans and crisis loans.
The precise criteria for determining regulated payments are contained in the Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) Regulations 1987 and the Social Fund Cold Weather Payments (General) Regulations 1988.
The Secretary of State gives directions to social fund officers listing the criteria for determining discretionary payments, and guidance on how these directions should be applied. The directions and guidance are published in the social fund guide. Copies of this legislation and publications are in the Library.
Mr. Alex Carlile: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if voluntary bodies are included among the potential sources to which people should apply before they become eligible for social fund assistance; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Roger Evans: Under section 140(1) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, a social fund officer determining a discretionary payment should have regard to: the nature, extent and urgency of the need; the existence of resources from which the need may be met; and the possibility that some other person or body may wholly or partly meet it. It is for a social fund officer to decide how these questions apply in each individual application to the social fund.
In deciding whether a crisis loan should be awarded, social fund officers are advised in the Secretary of State's guidance in the social fund guide to take into account any help which might be available from any other source to meet or partly meet the need, if there is a realistic expectation that help would be available in time. Possible sources of help might be charities and benevolent funds which are known to be likely to provide the required assistance. Copies of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 and the social fund guide are in the Library.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what changes had been made in the system of national insurance credits by 1965; what changes have been made since that date; and if he will estimate the impact of these changes on the number of people who have lost national insurance cover.
The National Insurance (Contributions) Amendment Regulations 1960 provided for unemployed persons to have a part-time job compatible with their availability for full-time employment and continue to receive unemployment credits.
No other significant changes were made prior to 1965 or between 1965 and 1975.
The Social Security (Credits) Regulations 1975 made adaptations to the credits systems to accommodate the revised national insurance scheme. The revised system was based on tax years and reliance on credits was considerably diminished since the earnings-related contributions payable by employed earners meant that
Column 760many people could achieve a qualifying year for future benefit purposes in a comparatively short period.
Apart from credits awarded for long-term benefit purposes only--class 3-- all credits previously awarded at a class appropriate to the contributor's employment status became class 1 credits. Other specific changes were as follows:
Special short-term benefit credits awarded to recent entrants into the national insurance scheme were extended to provide future cover for maternity allowance in addition to unemployment benefit and sickness benefit.
Credits in respect of education, training and unpaid apprenticeship up to age 18 were extended to cover all young people for the tax years containing their 16th, 17th and 18th birthdays.
The conditions for eligibility for credits in respect of approved training were eased by removing the qualification that the trainee would otherwise have become or remained unemployed and reducing the amount of contributions which needed to have been paid before the course commenced.
The special provision whereby class 3 contributions paid by a mature student during his course could be converted to class 1 or 2 for short-term benefit purposes only was removed.
Special credits available to a young person for short-term benefit purposes on termination of a period of small income exception were not replaced by a similar provision in respect of small earnings exception because of the anomalies that this would create. Class 3 credits previously awarded to widows for specified weeks were extended to cover the whole of the tax year. Credits were also made available for the year of widowhood and in some circumstances the following year regardless of whether widows benefit was in payment.
The credits provisions of the Social Security (Credits) Regulations 1975 and the Social Security (Benefit) (Married Women and Widows Special Provisions) Regulations 1974 together with information about subsequent significant changes are as follows:
Class 3 starting credits
Introduced 1948. Count for basic retirement pension and widows' benefits. Awarded for the years in which the individual reaches the ages of 16, 17 and 18. Still current.
Class 1 starting credits
Introduced 1953. Counted for unemployment benefit, sickness benefit and maternity allowance. Awarded for the year in which the age of 17 was reached or any previous year. Abolished from 2 October 1988 to coincide with the tightening of the contribution conditions for sickness and unemployment benefits.
Starting credits for maternity grant purposes
Introduced 1948. Abolished from 6 April 1988 when maternity grant was abolished.
Approved training credits
Introduced 1948. Count for all benefit purposes. Available to those over 18 in full time training. Still current. From 4 September 1988, the requirement to have one qualifying year for benefit purposes in the three years preceding the course was abolished.
Column 761Termination of full time education, training and apprenticeship credits
Introduced 1953. Count for unemployment and sickness benefit. Available to those over 18 providing the course did not start after the individual reached the age of 21 and the course has actually finished. Changes from 2 October 1988 were as follows:
(a) Credits for maternity allowance purposes were abolished. (b) Credits were no longer available to the individual for the tax year before he was 18.
(c) Credits were made available for one of the two relevant tax years for benefit purposes providing that the other year was a qualifying year. Change coincided with the tightening of the contribution conditions for sickness and unemployment benefits. Credits for unemployment and incapacity
Introduced in 1948. Count for all benefit purposes. Available for each week of unemployment or sickness. In the case of unemployment credits, a small amount of work can be disregarded. Changes since 1975 are as follows:
(a) From 29 May 1977, provisions were put in place to prevent the use of severe disablement allowance credits to gain entitlement to higher rate contributory incapacity benefits.
(b) From 8 March 1982, the scope of disregarded work for unemployment credit purposes was extended to include work done for a charity.
(c) From 10 May 1987, the scope of incapacity credits was extended to include periods when the individual was working as a councillor.
(d) From 6 April 1988, the scope of incapacity credits was extended to include days in receipt of statutory sick pay.
(e) From 6 April 1992, the scope of unemployment credits was extended to include periods covered by a PILON--payment in lieu of notice.
Special credits on termination of marriage
Introduced 1948. Abolished 18 May 1989. For women whose marriage has terminated by reason of the death of their husband or otherwise to assist them in satisfying the contribution conditions for unemployment and sickness benefits and maternity allowance. Award for any relevant week in which the marriage subsisted provided that certain contributions have been paid since the marriage ended. Widow's "running start" credits
Introduced January 1957. For the purposes of entitlement to sickness benefit, unemployment benefit or maternity allowance, where entitlement to WMA or WA ends other than by remarriage or cohabitation. Still current.
Introduced 12 April 1976. Count for all benefit purposes. Still current. Available for periods when invalid care allowance is payable.
Introduced 6 April 1983. Count for all benefit purposes. Still current. Awarded automatically to men for the tax years in which they reach the ages of 60 to 64 inclusive provided they are not liable to pay contributions.
Column 762SMP credits
Introduced 6 April 1987. Count for all benefit purposes. Still current. Awarded for periods when statutory maternity pay is available.
Jury service credits
Introduced 6 April 1988. Count for all benefit purposes. Still current. Awarded for periods of jury service.
Introduced 6 April 1992. Count for all benefit purposes. Still current. Available for periods when disability working allowance is payable.
Widows benefit credits
Introduced 1948. Counted for retirement pension purposes only. Awarded for each week for which widow's benefit was payable or a claim was pending. Abolished 1978.
It is not possible to estimate the impact of these changes on the number of people who have lost national insurance cover. Since the majority of changes have been favourable, there will be more gainers than losers in benefit terms.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. John Spellar, dated 2 March 1995:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what checks are made on the validity of EU documents before benefit is paid to EU nationals. If there are grounds to doubt the authenticity or validity of documentation such as EU national ID cards, for example if there are signs of alteration or the information is inconsistent with the customer's benefit claim details, staff will consider all the evidence presented and may refuse to accept the documentation. Staff have access to guidance on how to deal with suspect documentation provided in support of a benefit claim, in particular when attempting to establish a customer's identity. They are also able to seek advice from the Document Examination Unit of the Benefits Agency's (BA) Overseas Benefits Directorate.
I should add that in the case of a claim to a contributory benefit from a person from abroad, any EU documentation tendered would only initiate a claim; entitlement would need to be established by the BA's Overseas Benefits Directorate. The steps taken in processing such a claim would require corroborative documentation from sources other than the customer.
In addition, customers who have entered the UK within the last five years have, since 1 August 1994, had to show the adjudicating authorities that they are habitually resident in the UK to qualify for Income Support, Housing or Council Tax Benefits.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
Column 763with appeals against disability assessment for war pension purposes; and what was the average time 12 and 24 months earlier; (2) how many appeals against disability assessment for war pension purposes are currently waiting to be dealt with, and what were the figures 12 and 24 months earlier;
(3) how many (a) full-time and (b) part-time staff are employed in handling appeals against disability assessment for war pension purposes; and what were the numbers 12 and 24 months earlier.
Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Robin Corbett, dated 2 March 1995:
I have been asked by the Secretary of State to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about appeals against the assessment of claims to War Pension.
At 31 January 1995 the War Pensions Agency (WPA) had 8,337 assessment appeals on hand. The equivalent figures for 31 January 1994 and 1993 were 7,325 and 2,511 respectively.
The average time taken to clear an assessment appeal is currently 220 days compared with 183 days and 247 days 12 and 24 months earlier.
The work of WPA is organised so that staff deal with all aspects of a claim be it the initial claim, any review or deterioration or an ensuing appeal. As such it is no possible to be specific about the number of staff employed on dealing with assessment appeals. The majority of resources have been used to clear the high number of claims that have been received and this is demonstrated by a clearance of nearly 240,000 first claims in the last two years compared to 98,000 in the previous two year period. The balance of first claims has been reduced from a peak of 88,000 at April 1993 to 25,000 at January 1995.
This activity on claims has led to a consequent increase in the number of appeals received and hence an increase in the total on hand. However the Agency has responded with a very large increase in output as can be demonstrated by the fact that in 1994 a total of 9, 589 assessment appeals were cleared compared to 5,075 in 1993 and 3, 194 in 1992.
I hope you find my reply helpful.
(2) when he expects to announce the name of the new district manager of the Burnley Benefits Agency office.
Mr. Roger Evans: The appointments of district managers and the operations of district offices are both matters 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. Peter Pike, dated 2 March 1995:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the appointment of a new District Manager to, and the continued independent operation of, the Burnley Benefits Agency office.
We will shortly be advertising the post of District Manager at Burnley with a view to announcing the name of the successful applicant as soon as possible.
There are no plans to change the way the Burnley office operates.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many parents with care have made eligible applications to have maintenance assessed; and if he will express this figure as a percentage of parents with care.
Letter from Ann Chant to Mr. Donald Dewar, dated 3 March 1995: I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about eligible applications for child maintenance.
For the period April 1994 to January 1995 the number of parents with care who have made eligible applications and had maintenance assessed was 194,291. This figure represents 38.64% of the maintenance application forms received to date in 1994/95 by the Agency from parents with care.
Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many reduced benefit directions have been issued by the Child Support Agency in each month from April 1993 to the latest available date.
Letter from Ann Chant to Mr. Donald Dewar, dated 3 March 1995: I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the number of reduced benefit directions (RBDs) issued by the Child Support Agency.
April 1993 to March |RBDs issued 1994 ------------------------------------------------------------ April |0 May |0 June |1 July |0 August |8 September |13 October |20 November |39 December |79 January |162 February |42 March |263
April 1994 to |RBDs issued January 1995 ------------------------------------------ April |205 May |258 June |892 July |1,143 August |1,726 September |2,846 October |3,791 November |2,969 December |1,285 January |973
Column 765(b) Mauritius, (c) other non EU and (d) other EU countries expressing interest in the market testing exercise for administering the prescription pricing service currently provided by the Welsh Health Common Services Authority.
Mr. Redwood [holding answer 2 March 1995]: Of 38 organisations which have so far asked for a copy of the authority's market testing information pack, 37 are companies with a UK address and one is a company based elsewhere in the European Community. This would not preclude any links with the Philippines or Mauritius. However, the closing date for the submission of outline proposals is not until 24 March 1995, and invitations to tender will be issued on 28 April 1995. All information relating to companies tendering will be treated in confidence.
Mr. Rhodri Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had concerning the funding of the proposed dedicated flyover connecting the Eastern avenue A48 trunk road and the University Hospital of Wales, Health, Cardiff, if he will set out the rules relating to the funding by (a) health authorities (b) highway authorities or (c) the private sector of such dedicated highway structures; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Redwood [holding answer 2 March 1995]: I have received a number of representations. A contribution by the NHS towards the overall cost of off-site road works may in certain cases be appropriate, provided that the hospital involved is the main beneficiary of the proposals. The A48 Eastern avenue is not a trunk road and is the responsibility of South Glamorgan county council. It is for the council to determine what, if any, priority it attaches to such a structure. Any proposals from the private sector must offer value for money and a transfer of risk from the public sector.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the annual cost of providing accommodation in Cardiff for Welsh Office Ministers with particular reference to the Secretary of State for Wales.
Mr. Redwood: Because the accommodation for Welsh Office Ministers and officials in Cardiff is an integral part of the main headquarters office complex at Cathays Park, costs are not collected separately. There is not separate accommodation for the Secretary of State.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will estimate the cost to his Department's budget and to local authorities' self -financed expenditure in 1995 96 of implementing in full the recommendations of (a) the School Teachers Review Body, (b) the Review Body on Doctors and Dentists Remuneration and (c) the Review Body on Nursing Staff, Midwives, Health Visitors and Professions Allied to Medicine, assuming no changes in staff numbers.
Mr. Richards: On the recommendation of the School Teachers Review Body, I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) on 23 February 1995, Official Report, columns
Column 766300 01. The estimated costs to the NHS in Wales in 1995 96 of implementing the review bodies' pay awards are:
[TITRE --------------------------------------------------- DDRB (doctors and dentists)<1> |2.5-3.0 |7.1 NPRB (nurses and allied professions)<2> |1.5-3.0 |8.0-16.0 Notes: <1> Includes hospital medical and dental (2.5 per cent. award), local pay for consultants (average 2.5 per cent. awards) and GPs (3 per cent. award). <2> The award for NPRB groups was of a 1 per cent. increase in national salary rates to be supplemented by local negotiations on pay and, where appropriate, leads and allowances and/or conditions. The review body has said that it expects that, in the majority of cases, the outcome of local negotiations would provide improvements for the staff concerned totalling between 1.5 and 3 per cent., including the 1 per cent. increase in national rates. <3> Includes employers' national insurance and superannuation.
The costs of pay awards are to be met from existing budgets.
Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) what proposals he has for ensuring the appropriate training and qualification for (a) membership and (b) chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of local research ethics committees;
(2) if he will list the names of the chairmen, vice-chairmen and members of local research ethics committees and the date on which they were appointed;
(3) what consultations he has had with the chairman of the South Glamorgan health authority concerning the application of his Department's circular (91) 75 in relation to the independence of the local research ethics committee;
(4) what recent representations he has received in relation to the chairmanship of the South Glamorgan local research ethics committee; and if he will make a statement.