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Child Support Agency

Mr. David Nicholson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the estimated total of absent parents who in 1992 paid no maintenance for their children; how many such parents have been traced by the Child Support Agency; and what assessment he has made of the agency's record in contacting new absent parents since 1992. [2447]

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is as follows.

Research published in the White Paper "Children Come First" in 1990 showed that, in 1989, around 33 per cent. of lone parents received regular child maintenance.

Since 1992, the number of absent parents who have been traced by the Child Support Agency has increased as follows: 28,240 (1993-94), 49,632 (1994-95), 55,025 (1995-96) and 29,001 in the first six months of 1996-97, showing that the agency has been making steady progress in finding absent parents whose address was unknown to the parent with care. It is not known how many of these were new absent parents.

Maintenance Work

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the current backlog of maintenance work in his Department's offices. [2799]

Mr. Burt: The Department has a programme of maintenance works which is tailored to meet the needs of its estate and this is carried out within the resources made available to it. The programme for the current year has outstanding only those projects earmarked for completion before the end of the financial year.

Back to Work Bonus

Mr. Alan Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the cost of the back to work bonus during a full year; and how many people he estimates will gain. [2783]

Mr. Roger Evans: We anticipate that the first full year in which the back to work bonus will operate in a steady state will be 1998-99. Our latest estimate of the gross cost of the scheme in 1998-99 is £65 million. We estimate that at least 150,000 people will receive a bonus payment each year.


Benefits Agency Medical Services

Mr. Alan Howath: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the timetable for the negotiations and issue of contracts for the contractorisation of the Benefits Agency medical services. [2774]

Mr. Burt: The tendering process began in 1996 with the publication of an advertisement. Responses were evaluated and five companies selected to enter into negotiations with the Department for the provision of the

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services. A statement of service requirements--document containing details of the scope of work to be contracted out--will be issued to the shortlisted companies on 20 November. The companies will have time to clarify their understanding of the business and they will then be requested to put forward their proposals.

It is anticipated that contracts will be let by April 1997.

Mr. Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how he plans to safeguard confidential information in contracts for the delivery and administration of social security benefits and medical assessments. [2778]

Mr. Burt: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 24 July, Official Report, column 586.

Mr. Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what discussions have taken place with NHS hospital trusts concerning the contractorisation of the Benefits Agency medical services; what agreements have been reached concerning the fees which the trusts may charge private sector companies for the release of claimants' medical records; and how the additional cost will be financed. [2776]

Mr. Burt: We are currently discussing this issue with the NHS executive. Whatever the outcome, it is imperative that provision of these services will not lead to an increase in the expenditure of public funds.

Mr. Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many contracts he intends to issue for the contractorisation of the Benefits Agency medical services; and which companies have been shortlisted for consideration. [2775]

Mr. Burt: The undertaking has been divided into three contract packages based on geographical areas; however the contracts may be awarded to fewer than three contractors.

Five companies have been chosen to enter into negotiations with the Department for the provision of a medical service. Those companies are Andersens, BMI, Capita, EDS Ltd. and Sema.

Mr. Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has made for the financing of the costs of claimants' travel expenses to medical centres following the contractorisation of the Benefits Agency medical services. [2779]

Mr. Burt: No changes to the policy on reimbursement of travel expenses are planned. The responsibility for paying the expenses will however transfer to the successful contractors(s) following contract award.

Mr. Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which organisations he has consulted on the contractorisation of the Benefits Agency medical services. [2773]

Mr. Burt: As part of the process to determine the feasibility of contracting out Benefits Agency medical services, market research was undertaken with a wide range of organisations which included medical, IT and managed services companies.

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Mr. Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what performance targets he plans to include in contracts with private sector companies taking over the functions of the Benefits Agency medical services. [2777]

Mr. Burt: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 16 July 1996, Official Report, column 509. Targets and performance indicators will be matters for discussion and negotiation prior to contract(s) being awarded.

Benefits Agency (Attacks on Staff)

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what measures (a) are in place and (b) are being introduced to protect staff from attack by Benefits Agency clients. [2767]

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

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Paul Flynn, dated 7 November 1996:

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what measures (a) are in place and (b) are being introduced to protect staff from attack by Benefit Agency clients.


Incapacity Benefit

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the level

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of the (a) invalidity pension in December 1978 and (b) current level of incapacity benefit as a percentage of average earnings. [1415]

Mr. Burt: The information is in the table.

Percentage of average earnings
Basic rate invalidity pension December 1978(27)23.2
Basic long term rate incapacity benefit August 1996(28)17.4

Notes:

(27) Based on average earnings for men aged 21 or over and women aged 18 or over in full time employment.

(28) Based on average earnings figures for all full time employees.

Source:

New earnings survey, Office of National Statistics.



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