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WORK AND PENSIONS

New Deal

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what his estimate is of the number of people eligible for new deal 50 plus who are also entitled to claim the employment credit; [15837]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We estimate that over 3 million people are eligible for new deal 50 plus. Those who move into work and have an overall gross income of under £15,000 per annum, having been on an eligible benefit for six months or more, will be eligible for the employment credit. In the first 18 months of national operation over 51,000 people went back to work with the help of the employment credit.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what campaigns have been undertaken to promote awareness of the new deal 50 plus among employers; [15844]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We are currently building on last autumn's successful new deal 50 plus TV advertising campaign with a regional and local marketing campaign. Provisions are made within local budgets for strategic and innovative campaigns, and activities include local/ regional press advertising, mailshots, and Jobsfairs.

In addition, people who are over 50 and registered unemployed for six months or more will have new deal 50 plus drawn to their attention through their Jobcentre. New incapacity benefit claimants receive a mailshot about the programme when they become eligible.

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We are also developing proposals to increase the participation of employers on new deal 50 plus through the involvement of organisations from various employment sectors.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many new deal 50 plus participants are in receipt of the employment credit; and how many new credits have been recorded in each of the last 12 months; [15846]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The new deal 50 plus blend of personal advice, jobsearch help and in-work financial support has proved very successful at helping people over 50 move off benefits and back into work.

Starts on the programme are currently measured by the number of people who have moved into work and claimed the programme's in-work financial support, the employment credit. In the first 18 months of its national operation over 51,000 people have returned to work with the help of the employment credit. Currently we estimate that over 30,000 people are in receipt of the credit. Many people will also have benefited from the advice and jobsearch help that is available through the programme, although numbers are not available at present.

The numbers of employment credit starts for each of the last twelve months are in the table.

Number
October 20003,285
November 20003,403
December 20002,664
January 20012,186
February 20012,717
March 20013,284
April 20012,605
May 20013,293
June 20013,203
July 20012,921
August 20013,163
September 20013,011

Breast Feeding Mothers

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what benefits and allowances are available to breast-feeding mothers; and what plans he has to introduce further measures targeted at this group. [11666]

Malcolm Wicks: There is a wide range of benefits which may be available to all new mothers including maternity benefit, child benefit and income support.

We are improving maternity benefits as part of our drive to help women achieve a better balance between paid work and their family life. Statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance will be raised to £75 a week from April 2002. In 2003 the payments will be increased further to £100 a week and the payment period will be extended from 18 to 26 weeks.

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Sure Start maternity grants are also available to mothers, or their partners, who receive qualifying benefits. These grants are currently worth up to three times as much as the maternity payments they replaced and provide more help to the neediest families. We have announced a further increase in the grant from next April to £500 for each child.

Since 1997 the rate of child benefit has increased by 26 per cent. in real terms. The current rates from April 2001 are £15.50 for the first child and £10.35 for all other children.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which report by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate was (a) most satisfactory and (b) least satisfactory with respect to the Government's housing benefit policies. [11818]

Malcolm Wicks: It is not possible to identify individual local authorities in this way. Inspections have revealed that each authority has a mixture of strengths and weaknesses across a wide range of different administrative and counter-fraud activities. Inspections can vary in approach according to the circumstances of each local authority. The information available in the reports does not, therefore, enable such comparisons to be made.

Housing Benefit

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what financial support is available to local authorities which experience a significant rise in housing benefit administrative costs as a consequence of large scale redundancies. [17868]

Malcolm Wicks: The amount of subsidy paid to each authority is calculated annually using a formula agreed in consultation with the local authority associations. The formula takes account of the caseload and complexity of housing benefit cases, with elements for accommodation and staffing costs. Once annual allocations have been set, they cannot be altered in-year. However, any changes in caseload would be reflected in the following year's allocation.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which 20 local authorities took the longest to pay housing benefit in the UK in the last three years; and what was the average lengths of time it took these local authorities to pay. [16102]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 19 November 2001]: The information is not available.

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many local authority housing benefit managers he has met since he took responsibility for housing benefit; [12944]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 14 November 2001]: Information is not available in the format requested. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other Ministers meet periodically with housing benefit

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managers at conferences and on visits to individual local authorities. Such recent occasions have included question and answer sessions at conferences hosted by the Chartered Institute of Housing (June 2001) and the Institute of Ratings Revenue and Valuation (February and October 2001). Visits have also been made to the London Boroughs of Camden, Hackney and Croydon housing benefit departments. Further visits are being planned.

Pensioners (Buckingham)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to visit the Buckingham constituency to meet pensioners. [18797]

Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend has no plans to visit the Buckinghamshire constituency in the near future, but we do meet pensioners regularly in the course of our duties.

Severe Disability Allowance

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will set out from the first quarter of 1998–99 to the most recent figures available (a) how many people were awaiting an appeal for severe disability allowance at the end of each quarter, (b) the average time it took to process the appeal and (c) the average time it took to process the original claim. [16786]

Maria Eagle: The number of appeals outstanding for severe disablement allowance at the end of the first quarter of 1998–99 to the first quarter of 2001–02 are shown in table 1:

Table 1

Year/quarterNumber of appeal outstanding at the end of each quarter
1998–99
11,569
21,613
31,508
41,347
1999–2000
1761
2932
3623
4711
2000–01
1775
2855
3735
4712
2001–02
1716

Note:

All figures are provisional

Source:

100 per cent. download of the Generic Appeals Processing System.


The average times in weeks from lodgement of a severe disablement allowance appeal with the Benefits Agency to the appeal being decided from the end of the first quarter of 1998–99 to the first quarter of 2001–02 is shown in table 2:

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Table 2

Time in weeks from:
Year/quarterlodgement of the appeal with the Benefits Agency to the appeal being received by the Appeals Servicereceipt of the appeal by the Appeals Service to the appeal being heard at tribunal for the first timethe appeal being heard for the first time at tribunal to the appeal being decided(2)Overall "end-to-end" clearance time in weeks
1998–99
111262637
27262734
37273037
47252835
1999–2000
111313647
212202638
314233246
413223346
2000–01
112162335
213152134
312162234
411152132
2001–02
111152232

(2) Includes appeals, which have been adjourned.

Note:

All figures are provisional

Source:

100 per cent. download of the Generic Appeals Processing System.


The average time in working days taken to process a severe disablement allowance claim for the period from the end of the first quarter of 1998–99 to the second quarter of 2001–02 is shown in table 3:

Table 3

Year/quarterNumber of working days taken to process a claim for severe disablement allowance
1998–99
164
257
358
456
1999–2000
162
268
366
465
2000–01
164
2 60
363
469
2001–02(3)
176
2104

(3) Severe disablement allowance ceased to be payable as a new benefit from April 2001.

Notes:

1. All figures are provisional.

2. All data from Central Data Unit.


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