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SOCIAL SECURITY

North Staffordshire Services

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what provision his Department and its agencies currently make in north Staffordshire for (a) review visits, (b) provision of social fund money advice, (c) local customer surveys, (d) public caller offices, (e) district information officers, (f) non-technical training, (g) out-of-hours service and (h) freeline advice service; and if he will give in each case the location and staff establishment providing each of the services. [38]

Mr. Roger Evans: This is a matter for Peter Mathison, chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Ms Joan Walley, dated 7 November 1996:


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Expenditure

Sir Ralph Howell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish in the Official Report the undated letter produced by his Department referred to in his answer of 19 July 1995, Official Report, column 1487. [2001]

Mr. Roger Evans: Yes.

The letter reads as follows:


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Benefits Agency

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what representations he has received regarding his proposals to close the Benefits Agency out-of-hours service; and if he will make a statement. [2116]

Mr. Roger Evans: Representations have been received from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, hon. Members, the Association of Directors of Social Services, individual social service departments, local authorities, women and children's aid groups, the Bishop of Bath and Wells and members of the public.

The Benefits Agency has also held meetings with the Department of Health, local authorities, the Scottish Office and welfare agencies. Further meetings to assess financial implications have been arranged with Department of Health, Department of Environment and the Scottish office.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what representations he has received concerning the Income-related Benefits and Jobseeker's Allowance (Personal Allowances for Children and Young Persons) (Amendment) Regulations 1996; if he will place copies of such representations in the Library; and if he will make a statement. [2128]

Mr. Roger Evans: Since the changes were announced, a small number of letters from hon. Members and the public have been received. Representations were also made to the Social Security Advisory Committee during the period of public consultation on the proposals. The committee's report, and the Government's response to it, were published with the regulations on 11 October and copies were placed in the Library.

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Fraud

Mr. David Nicholson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if his campaign against fraud in social security will include parents with care of children receiving income from a current partner in receipt of benefit; and if he will make a statement. [2450]

Mr. Heald: We are concerned to tackle all types of fraud against the social security system, including, where relevant, the non-disclosure of income by benefit recipients.

Mr. Stott: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what criteria were used to select the areas of Britain to be singled out for investigation by the Benefits Agency special fraud teams. [3381]

Mr. Heald: The choice of areas for the Spotlight campaigns is mainly based on the ready availability of the necessary DSS and other resources.

Compactness of the locality is also taken into account.

Mr. Stott: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the cost to (a) his Department and (b) the Benefits Agency of the current investigation by the Benefits Agency's special fraud teams. [3382]

Mr. Heald: The Department has set aside £3,500,000 for the total costs of the programme of "Spotlight on Benefit Cheats" campaigns. This makes allowance for the costs incurred by the Benefits Agency and other DSS agencies.

Appeals Procedures

Sir David Steel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many representations he received during the consultations process in support of the changes of appeals procedures for benefits outlined in "Improving Decision Making and Appeals in Social Security", Cm 3328. [2381]

Mr. Roger Evans: The period for consultation ended on 18 October and we are currently in the process of analysing all the responses received--currently 440. I cannot yet provide the information requested by the hon. Member but will write separately to him once the information becomes available.

Sir David Steel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the decision to implement changes of appeal procedures for benefits under the Social Security (Adjudication) and Child Support Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1996 before the end of the consultation procedure set out in "Improving Decision Making and Appeals in Social Security", Cm 3328. [2382]

Mr. Evans: When my right hon. Friend the Security of State announced his intention to make these changes on 23 July, he said that he was consulting the Council on Tribunals on the proposals and that, subject to that consultation, regulations would be laid during the recess to take effect in the autumn. This has been done. The changes are intended to improve the appeals process and there is no reason to delay them.

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