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Housing Benefit

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what interim conclusions have been reached by the Housing Benefit verification pilot projects; and if he will make a statement; [85640]

Angela Eagle: Section 19 of the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997 requires individuals to provide, as a qualifying condition of benefit, a National Insurance number in respect of themselves and their partner. Since 12 April, the extension of this provision to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit has been piloted in seven local authorities. This provides an opportunity to test procedures and information about volumes and costs to prepare for national implementation on 6 September. Early indications from the pilot are that virtually all claimants have been able, and are willing, to produce satisfactory evidence of their identity and proof of their National Insurance number. Consequently, there has been very little call on the Benefits Agency to trace or allocate National Insurance numbers. Of the few DCI1LA forms sent some relate to people from abroad but none have so far been sent in respect of children leaving care. There are no undue delays in DCI1LA forms being processed. However, this would have no adverse effect on claimants anyway as Section 19 will have been satisfied, and benefit paid, once sufficient information or evidence has been provided to enable a National Insurance number to be traced or allocated. Any individual who does not yet have a National Insurance number will be allocated one once he has furnished this information or evidence. The procedures used by local authorities to establish identity will apply the same standards to those currently operated by the Benefits Agency. Where an individual is unable to provide satisfactory documentary evidence of

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their identity every effort will be made to establish and corroborate their personal history by means of an interview. Statistics are currently being collected on the pilot and these, together with the final results and conclusions from the pilot, will be available in late August.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security in cases where there is an over payment of housing benefit which cannot be reclaimed from the recipient, from which organisation's budget the overpayment is deducted once it is detected. [85643]

Angela Eagle: The majority of Housing Benefit overpayments are recoverable, although it is for local authorities to choose whether to do so. The Department pays differing levels of direct subsidy to local authorities, from nil to 95 per cent., depending on the cause of the overpayment. If the error is due to this Department or to a Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) official error, full subsidy is paid on any unrecovered benefit. However, if the overpayment arises due to an official error by the local authority, nil subsidy is payable and the local authority has to bear the cost of any unrecovered benefit. In all other cases, including fraud, some subsidy is paid and the local authority can retain any monies recovered. With the exception of monies recovered in respect of this Department or DfEE official error, no adjustment to subsidy is made to reflect any amount recovered. Different subsidy arrangements apply in England and Wales where Housing Benefit is paid to local authorities' own tenants, and are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Secretary of State for Wales.


Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assistance will be available to widows aged 45 to 60 years to help them to find a job or a training/education place during the six months for which they receive benefit. [85940]

Angela Eagle: New widows aged 45 to 60 will receive help through ONE, the single work-focused gateway service. ONE will give new claimants access to a personal adviser to guide them through their options. The focus will be on enabling people to access a wide range of help and support to ensure that they do not miss out on the opportunities that are available to them.

Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what consultations he has had about the likelihood of widows aged 45 to 60 years, who are not already in full-time paid work, obtaining such work within six months of their bereavement. [85941]

Angela Eagle: Our proposal to introduce a time-limited Bereavement Allowance for widows and widowers aged 45 or over who have no dependent children was published in the public consultation document "A new contract for Welfare: Support in Bereavement". For those widows and widowers who need to find work to support themselves at the end of the six-month period, our comprehensive welfare-to-work programme offers a range of support, including advice on employment, training and benefits.

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Benefit Entitlement (Students)

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the cost of allowing students to claim (a) housing benefit, (b) income support during the summer and (c) income support all year round; and if he will estimate the numbers who would be newly entitled in each case. [86052]

Angela Eagle: Since the start of the 1990-91 academic year, full-time students have not been entitled to benefits as a means of supporting themselves whilst studying. Financial support provided to the vast majority of full-time students by the taxpayer now comes through one source--the education system. Nevertheless, certain students in vulnerable groups, e.g. lone parents, disabled students etc., continue to have access to Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit on the same basis as before. We do not hold sufficient information about students' housing and income circumstances to be able to estimate the costs of allowing all students to claim Housing Benefit and Income Support.

"Support in Bereavement"

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will place in the Library a copy of all the responses made to the "Support in Bereavement" consultation document (Cmd 4104). [86042]

Angela Eagle: A list of those who have responded has been placed in the Library. Copies of this list and specific responses are available on request from The Widows' Benefit Consultation Team, 3rd Floor, The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, London, WC2N 6HT.

Temporary National Insurance Numbers

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security in what circumstances temporary National Insurance Numbers in the format TN(date of birth) M/F are issued. [85644]

Mr. Timms: The Department does not issue temporary National Insurance Numbers. The only circumstance in which they may be used is where an employer does not know the National Insurance Number of a new employee and is submitting end of year returns by magnetic media.

State Second Pension

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if he will estimate the public expenditure effects, excluding setting up costs, of passporting disabled people with broken work records onto the state second pension by 2002 and for every five-year period until 2047; [86219]

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Mr. Timms: Gross costs in 2002 would be less than £50 million in total. Figures are not available at 5 yearly intervals from 2002, but the gross costs at 10 yearly intervals thereafter are set out in the following table.

£ billion

Carers of disabled0.
Carers of children aged 5 and under0.


1. Figures, supplied by the Government Actuary's Department, are in £ billion at 1998-99 prices. They represent gross costs (excluding income-related benefit offsets) which make no allowance for the amounts that would have been spent on Home Responsibilities Protection for SERPS under the previous Government's policy.

2. Figures are calculated to the nearest £100 million. Totals may include amounts of less than £100 million not otherwise shown in the table.

3. Real earnings growth of 1.5 per cent. per annum has been assumed.

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