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Benefit Fraud

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what has been the estimated loss to his Department as a result of benefit fraud during the last 12 months. [100440]

Mr. Rooker: Previous estimates have shown that £2 billion a year has definitely been lost through fraud. A further £3 billion may have been lost in cases where fraud is strongly suspected and a further £2 billion where there is some suspicion of fraud.

We are now measuring the level of fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance, the two most vulnerable benefits, thoroughly investigating a monthly random sample of cases in each Benefits Agency area. Staff error is measured separately by a special team within the Benefits Agency. The latest period for which figures are available is the 12 months ending September 1998 where the level of fraud and error in these benefits was £1.4 billion or 9 per cent. of the total benefit paid.

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people in Scotland are in receipt of industrial injuries benefit. [100256]

Mr. Bayley: The number of assessments for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in payment for Scotland was 27,000 on 4 April 1998, the latest date for which statistics are available.

Departmental Performance Targets

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the targets and performance indicators for his Department's policies. [100916]

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Mr. Rooker: The Department has set out the key performance targets on which it will be judged in its PSA, and the measures of success it will use in the Output and Performance Analysis (OPA) published in March this year.

In addition, the Secretary of State sets annual targets for the Department's agencies. These targets are announced to Parliament by means of a written parliamentary answer. A full list of the targets and target dates for the Department's agencies can be found in the Next Steps Report and in individual agency Business Plans. Performance against targets is also reported in agencies' Annual Reports. Copies of these documents can be found in the Library.

These high level targets are supported at operational level by numerous other internal targets in order to ensure delivery by individual units.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the implications of NIRS2 problems for the implementation of stakeholder pensions in April 2001. [100646]

Mr. Rooker: IT support is one of a number of key issues we are addressing in the development of our implementation plans for stakeholder pensions. We are ensuring those plans take account of the difficulties so far experienced with NIRS2.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he expects to have eliminated all remaining delays in payment of retirement pensions resulting from the transfer to the NIRS2 computer system; and if he will estimate (a) the total number of such payments still outstanding, (b) the total amount still outstanding, (c) the total number of pensioners who have been affected since the problem first occurred and (d) the likely total cost of compensation. [101141]

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many recipients of SERPS are receiving payments which have been estimated rather than calculated precisely because of NIRS2 problems; [100648]

Mr. Rooker: We have long-standing contingency arrangements to ensure that pensioners do not suffer undue hardship in the event that computer problems arise. Where NIRS2 cannot provide the information required to finalise a claim, clerical calculations are undertaken. Additional resources have been made available for

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processing the clerical calculations, of both additional pension and the increase earned by people who have deferred receipt of their pension beyond minimum State Pension age.

A National Insurance benefit task force was set up to assist people who experience difficulties or who have queries about the problems arising from NIRS2.

As at 31 October 1999 we have paid £2.113 million in compensation for NIRS2 delays to benefit recipients. Of this £1.986 million relates to the flat-rate £10 compensation payments and £0.127 million to payments made under the normal rules of the Department's Special Payments Scheme. It is not possible at this time to estimate how much more compensation will be paid because of NIRS2 delays.

The Department operates a long-standing non-statutory compensation scheme, the terms of which have been agreed by the Parliamentary Ombudsman and his predecessors. Under the terms of the scheme compensation is calculated using the "Retail Shares and Deposit Average Rate" provided by the Building Societies Commission. Compensation may be provided for any period of delay beyond normal processing time (referred to as the "indicator of delay") for the benefit concerned. The rate currently in use is 3.872 per cent. Where a person would be due more than £10 under the terms of that scheme he or she is paid the balance in addition to the £10 outlined above.

As at 1 November 1999 the Inland Revenue estimate the cost of additional payments to Pension Providers, in respect of individual scheme members, for the delay in the payment of Age Related Rebates, was £36.2 million.

Up to the time that NIRS2 began providing Retirement Pension calculations on 6 January 1999, it was estimated that 285,000 pensioners had been affected by NIRS2 problems. Of these there remain about 40,000 cases to be reviewed. Not all of these will be in receipt of an incorrect amount of benefit.

Since 6 January NIRS2 has not been able to provide the amount of additional pension (SERPS) in about 10 per cent. of the cases in which it is known SERPS entitlement exists. For these estimated 60,000 claims a year the Benefits Agency is carrying out clerical calculations, with a view to ensuring that all new pensioners are receiving their full entitlement by the date of their retirement. In total, therefore, the maximum estimated number of new pensioners affected by NIRS2 problems to the end of 1999 will be 345,000.

Information about the full amount of Retirement Pension which has been underpaid because of the delayed implementation of the NIRS2 computer, and the compensation payable, will not be available until recovery action is complete. This is expected to be during next year.

Benefit Payment (Methods)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the advice given to pension and benefit recipients about whether they can choose to collect their payments in their local post office. [101069]

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Mr. Rooker: All pension and benefit recipients receive advice on all the available methods of payments including collecting their payments in their local post office.

Free School Meals

Mr. Rooney: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the estimated value of the notional amount included in family credit to compensate for non-entitlement to free school meals. [101144]

Mr. Bayley: When the Family Credit scheme was introduced in 1988, provision was made to replace the value of entitlement to free school meals (and free milk/vitamins for the under-fives). This was done by adding £2.55 a week to each child credit. The total child credit has since been uprated annually by the Rossi index.

Working Families' Tax Credit was introduced from 5 October 1999. It is more generous than the Family Credit it replaces.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners aged over 75 years live with adults of below pension age; and what proportion that is of all pensioners aged over 75 years. [99397]

Janet Anderson: I have been asked to reply.

An estimated 0.4 million pensioners aged 75 or over live with adults below state pension age. This represents approximately 12 per cent. of all pensioners aged 75 years or over.

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