Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how much local discretionary funding was allocated to each of the Learning and Skills Councils for 2001-02; and what proportion of total funding allocated to each Learning and Skills Council this amount represents. 
Mr. Wicks: There is no single definition of local discretionary funding. After the current transition period, local LSCs will have the decisive role in the allocation to providers of the vast bulk of the LSC's mainstream budgets, including those for further education and work-based training (although prices paid per individual learner will be determined by a national formula).
For a range of other activities which total 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. of LSC overall funds, and for which there will be no national formula, local LSCs will determine both the allocations and the prices paid. One element within that 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. category is the Local Initiatives Fund (LIF), offering maximum flexibility for the local LSC to support local projects which would not otherwise be funded through mainstream programme budgets. The total LIF budget for 2001-02 is
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£90.3 million, of which almost 90 per cent. has so far been allocated. The table shows initial LIF allocations to local LSCs for 2001-02.
|Lincolnshire and Rutland
|Tyne and Wear
|Cheshire and Warrington
|Oxford, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
|Bracknell Forest/West Berkshire
|Hampshire and Isle of Wight
|Kent and Medway
|Devon and Cornwall
|Birmingham and Solihull
|Herefordshire and Worcestershire
|Coventry and Warwickshire
|Yorks and the Humber
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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the reviews his Department is conducting of (a) tuition fees and (b) student debt; and what the average estimated level of debt per student was in each of the last 10 years. 
Mr. Wicks [holding answer 1 March 2001]: We are not currently conducting any such reviews. The student support arrangements we have introduced are working well and share the costs of higher education fairly between students, parents and the taxpayer and we are monitoring the impact of the new arrangements. From September this year, because we have raised the income contribution thresholds, around 50 per cent. of all English and Welsh higher education students liable for fees under the Education (Student Support) Regulations will not have to make any contribution to their tuition fees. In 2001-02 new additional targeted support, in particular opportunity bursaries and a child care grant based on actual costs, will help students with dependants and those from poorer backgrounds. Annual figures on student finances are not collected. However, the average level of student debt was £840 in 1995-96 and £2,530 in 1998-99 for full-time students in higher education in the UK after their savings had been taken into account, according to data from the Department's periodic Student Income and Expenditure Survey.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) what discussions he has had with Ofsted on the decision to organise the Early Years Inspectorate on the basis of homeworking by inspectors; what representations he has received on this decision; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) what procedures will be put in place to ensure that (a) early years inspectors working from home have (i) ready access to their line managers and (ii) adequate means of liaison with other child care professionals and (b) proper child protection procedures are adhered to. 
Ms Hodge: The organisation of Ofsted's Early Years Inspectorate is a matter for Ofsted. I have, therefore, asked HM Chief Inspector of Schools, Mike Tomlinson, to write to my hon. Friend and to place a copy of his letter in the Library.
Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many claims outstanding resulting from failures in the NIRS2 computer system remain to be processed; and what his estimate is of the time scales within which these will receive attention and payments be made. 
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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the number of families with dependent children who have been in receipt of Income Support for one year or more. 
Overall, inspectors found a number of weaknesses and poor standards of performance in benefit administration and counter fraud work that needed immediate attention. Inconsistent and ineffective work practices were found and there were substantial backlogs of work affecting over 30,000 benefit claims which had led to lengthy delays in claims processing.
The BFI reports the authority's lack of effective performance standards and targets, inadequate management information, weaknesses in checks and controls, poor management and recovery of benefit overpayments and no formal assessment of the risks of benefit fraud.
The report notes that although there is some good counter fraud work, it is not focused and significant effort is being wasted. Where management checking exists it is largely ineffective and provides little assurance.
The report concludes that BFI has serious concerns about Liverpool's recent performance in managing and delivering a secure benefits service. More positively, however, the report notes that the authority has recognised the significant challenges it faces and is strongly committed to a significant change programme that will involve overhauling its systems, structures and processes.
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While BFI recognises the size of the task and that the necessary changes will be difficult, inspectors are encouraged by the authority's commitment to tackle these issues.