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Grants and Awards (Wakefield)

Yvette Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will list the grants and awards that require bids from applicants which her Department is responsible for administering and awarding (a) nationally and (b) that people and groups within Wakefield Metropolitan District are eligible to bid for; if she will publish the deadlines for these applications; and if she will produce this list on a regular basis. [51268]

Mr. Denham: The Department is responsible for administering and awarding people's entitlement to a range of Social Security benefits and to child support maintenance. It also makes grants, in the form of subsidies, to local authorities to cover most of the costs of paying and administering the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit schemes.

The Department is also responsible for making grants to charitable organisations (Motability and the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association) who offer support in terms of adaptations to motor vehicles for disabled persons who are in receipt of qualifying benefits. Grants are also provided to the Independent Living Fund who offer financial assistance to disabled people who wish to live independently in the community.

Benefit Payment Methods

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on progress in respect of the Pathway Project. [52110]

Mr. Denham: At present 204 post offices in the North-East and South-West of England have been automated and are paying Child Benefit by Payment Card as part of a limited trial.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many post offices in Scotland are to be automated for the purpose of social security benefit payments by swipecard under ICL/Pathway; and how many of these post offices have so far been automated. [53116]

Mr. Denham: The project provides for automation of benefit payments by payment card at every post office in the United Kingdom. At present 204 post offices have been automated, none of which is in Scotland.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will (a) provide compensation and (b) take legal action against ICL with reference to delays in implementing the project to automate social security benefit payments through post offices. [53125]

28 Jul 1998 : Column: 185

Mr. Denham: The Benefits Agency, Post Office Counters Ltd. and ICL Pathway continue to work together to plan the next stages of the programme to automate benefit payments at post offices. Commercial and contractual considerations remain confidential to the parties.

Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many recipients of the disability living allowance have had the level reduced (a) since

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1 May 1997 and (b) in the previous 15 months; how many requested a review; and how many had the benefit restored; [52259]

Mr. Denham: The information is not available in the format requested but some relevant figures are given in the table.

28 Jul 1998 : Column: 185

Disability living allowance

Period (17)Reviews requested (18)Awards terminated (18)(19)Awards increased (20)Awards decreased
1 February 1996 to 30 April 1997473,446155,826----
1 May 1997 to 30 June 1998395,752172,857----
1 March 1996 to 31 May 1997----147,14031,190
1 June 1997 to 31 May 1998----99,30036,120

(17) It is not possible to produce two compatible fifteen month periods

(18) Source: Analytical Services Division: 100 per cent. data

(19) Figures cover terminations due to death of the claimant, residence and presence conditions not satisfied, withdrawal from benefit by the claimant or withdrawal of benefit by the Department.

(20) Awards increased and decreased will include reviews requested in an earlier period than that shown.

Source:

Analytical Services Division: 5 per cent. data


28 Jul 1998 : Column: 185

SERPS

Ms Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the cost of administering the contracting out of SERPS in the last year for which figures are available. [52379]

Mr. Denham: The Contributions Agency's (CA) Contracted-Out Employments Group (COEG) administers the arrangements for employees who are contracted out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) and is responsible for ensuring that the pension rights of such employees are accurately recorded, maintained and safeguarded. This involves the approval and supervision of contracted-out occupational and appropriate personal pension schemes, dealing with notifications relating to scheme membership, and overseeing the payment of contracted-out rebates.

COEG's administration costs for the 1997-98 year amounted to £10.926m.

Ms Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the cost to her Department of funding the contracted out element of SERPS in the last year for which figures are available. [52376]

Mr. Denham: In 1996-97, the last year for which figures are available, the cost of funding the contracted-out element of SERPS was £7.368 billion.

Asbestos

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what guidance her Department issues to those constructing buildings for which it is responsible on the use of materials containing asbestos. [52310]

Mr. Denham: Following the PRIME initiative which transferred the ownership of the Department's estate on 1 April 1998, all building related work, including new

28 Jul 1998 : Column: 186

constructions, is provided to the Department by the private sector consortium Trillium, previously known as PPM.

Trillium are contractually obliged to use building materials and consumables that comply with any relevant European or British Standard or Code of Practice and, where reasonably able, to procure them from sources that practise environmentally friendly policies. They must also comply with all UK or European Law and all Statutory requirements.

The agreement with Trillium requires them to bring all existing accommodation up to statutory requirements within 2 years and they have been charged with achieving a very good BREEAM rating for both existing sites and new developments. They must also undertake assessments covering all aspects of the Department's facilities, and sites, to identify significant hazards and risks within the workplace. They will build on and maintain the Department's asbestos register and carry out regular inspections to monitor the condition of asbestos and, when necessary, they will remove it under controlled conditions.

Technical Audits will be carried out by the Department's contract management team, with expert consultancy support where appropriate, and if requested Trillium will have to supply evidence to demonstrate their compliance.

Occupational Pensions

Ms Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate she has made of the number of pensioners who received increased awards from their occupational pension scheme after the point of retirement. [52380]

Mr. Denham: Information is not available to be able to make an estimate in the precise form requested. Such information as is available is as follows.

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All occupational pension benefits accrued after 6 April 1997, except those deriving from the payment of additional voluntary contributions, must be indexed in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI), with indexation being capped at 5 per cent. Before that date, the only indexation requirement applied to pensions accrued as a result of contracting-out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) after 5 April 1988. Such pensions had to be indexed in line with RPI, capped at 3 per cent.

However, from 5 April 1978, full indexation was effectively provided within SERPS itself for those who had contracted-out. From 5 April 1988 to 5 April 1997, SERPS provided indexation of the balance above 3 per cent, where the RPI rose above this level.

Numbers of people in the UK entitled under the rules of their scheme to various levels of indexation of pension benefits in payment through private and public sector defined benefit occupational pension schemes
million

IndexationPrivate sectorPublic Sector
With RP10.52.8
With RPI up to a maximum of 5 per cent.1.20.1
Other indexation1.10.3
None0.6nil
Total3.43.2

Notes:

1. All figures are in millions and have been rounded to the nearest 0.1 million

2. The statistics refer to rights accorded to members and beneficiaries through the scheme rules. However, schemes may choose to award more generous increases on a discretionary basis

3. The indexation levels quoted in the table may be applied by the providers to the whole pension benefit an individual receives or only to pension benefits received which have been accrued in excess of any Guaranteed Minimum Pension (GMP) component. However, if the indexation level is applied to the whole pension, then it must be sufficient to cover any increase in GMP to which a pensioner may be entitled

4. No information is available on indexation arrangements for pension benefits in payment accrued through defined contribution occupational pension schemes, which are converted into annuities

Source:

1991 Government Actuary's Department Survey of Occupational Pension Schemes



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