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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 13 December 2000


Placement Panel

Mr. Opik: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) how many boys who have been assessed by the Placement Panel were recommended as suitable for transfer from Lisnevin to another juvenile justice centre; and if he will make a statement; [142166]

Mr. Ingram: In the period 1 February 1999, when the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Children) (NI) Order 1998 came into effect, to 4 December 2000, a total of 537 cases of boys in custody in Lisnevin were assessed by the Placement Panel for suitability for transfer to a different juvenile justice centre. A number of boys would have been remanded several times in the period and accordingly their cases would have been reviewed on a number of occasions.

In the same period, 93 recommendations for transfer to another less secure juvenile justice centre were made. Of these recommendations 59 transferred to St. Patrick's and 13 to Rathgael. Rathgael Juvenile Justice Centre is largely reserved for girls but will also accommodate a small number of especially vulnerable boys whereas St. Patrick's accepted boys only.

It is the duty of the Secretary of State [under para 1(1) of Schedule 2 of the Criminal Justice (Children's)(NI) Order 1998] to determine the placement of children sent to custody by the courts. Routinely boys, who are either remanded or committed, go directly to Lisnevin and the Secretary of State obtains advice from the non-statutory

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Placement Panel. The Panel comprises representatives from the three Juvenile Justice Centres, Probation and Juvenile Justice Branch of the Northern Ireland Office. Other specialists' input is called upon as required, for example from a psychologist who specialises in the treatment of children in custody.

The function of the Panel is to advise the Secretary of State and his officials on placements. The Secretary of State's responsibility when deciding on placement has to balance the need of the child in terms of custodial surroundings and the child's own best interests with the wider need to protect the public and prevent the children from reoffending. As the legislation is intended to restrict custody to the most serious and persistent offenders, who present the most challenging behaviour, secure accommodation is more appropriate to their needs in most cases.

Children's views of placement are made known to the Panel through the normal assessment process. The issue of placement came before the courts by way of a judicial review challenging a decision of the Secretary of State to place a boy in Lisnevin rather than St. Patrick's. In his judgment, the Lord Chief Justice for NI found that the Secretary of State's decision was not in breach of the standard international rules on the treatment of children, no abuse of power had occurred and there was no evidence that the applicant had suffered any disadvantage arising from the Secretary of State's placement decision. There is no appeals procedure as such; however children are advised of the Secretary of State's decision and during the course of the period when the child is in custody his or her case is kept under review. In the case referred to above, the Lord Chief Justice also found that this element of the procedure also fulfilled human rights obligations.

With the consolidation of all juvenile justice custodial services onto a single site, the placement process will become obsolescent in its present form.

Official Publications

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list each new publication issued by his Department since 1997; and what the total cost is to the Department of each publication. [141471]

Mr. Mandelson: Details of Northern Ireland Office publications from 1997 to the end of March 1999 can be found in the "Northern Ireland, Expenditure Plans and Priorities" reports published by the Department of Finance and Personnel/HM Treasury; CMs 3616, 3916 and 4217 refer. For the period 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000, this information can be found in the Northern Ireland Office 2000 Departmental Report (Cm 4621). Copies of all four reports can be found in the Library. The information for the current year is being collated and will be published in the spring in the Northern Ireland Office's 2001 Departmental Report.

Information on the total cost of each publication is not available centrally and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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Sponsored Immigrants

Mr. Singh: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how the Social Security (Immigration and Asylum) Consequential Amendments Regulations 2000 affect access to benefits for sponsored immigrants whose sponsors have died. [142858]

Mr. Bayley: There is no change to the policy that access to benefits should be available to a sponsored person where the person who undertook to support him has died. A technical defect in the amendments made by the Social Security (Immigration and Asylum) Consequential Amendments Regulations 2000 places an unintended restriction of six weeks on the period for which Income Support is available. We intend to bring forward amending regulations to correct the defect. In the meantime, extra-statutory payments will be made to any affected cases that do arise to ensure that the policy intention is met.


Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many applications for Attendance Allowance have (a) been subject to reconsideration and (b) successful at reconsideration; and what was the average number of days taken to process appeals in each quarter of the last three years; [141493]

Mr. Bayley: The information is not available in the format requested as it is not possible, from overall statistics, to track individual claims through subsequent stages. The figures therefore show the total number or reconsiderations. All figures relate to Attendance Allowance.

Reconsiderations and Reviews
Success rate of Reconsideration and Review decisions made in this period
June (percentage)433934
September (percentage)383743
December (percentage)4333--
March (percentage)4040--
Average Clearance time for Appeals (working days)
Claims outstanding
Reviews and Reconsiderations outstanding
Appeals outstanding

(1) Statistics are not available for this quarter due to a technical difficulty


From October 1999, considerations replaced reviews as the mechanism for looking again at decisions

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I refer the hon. Member to my written answers on 22 November 2000, Official Report, columns 229-30W, and 7 November 2000, Official Report, columns 162-63W in which I stated that new procedures for assessing claims for Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/Attendance Allowance (AA) were introduced last year to improve the accuracy of decisions on entitlement.

As with any major change to the processing of benefit, there was a lengthy period of adjustment both in the preceding months and immediately after the new procedures became effective. As a result, significant backlogs of work built up in DLA/AA operations. This has been tackled as a priority and work in most areas of the business has now returned to acceptable levels. However, as claims have been processed, this has led to increases in the levels of appeals outstanding as cases work through the system. Achieving a reduction in the level of appeals outstanding has been our highest priority and the numbers outstanding have reduced steadily in recent months.

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