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Soft Skills

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the soft skills promoted by his Department; and if he will make a statement on how they relate to hard skills. [18904]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: There is no formal list of soft skills provided through the Department's employment and training programmes. Soft skills relate to good work discipline, attitude and behaviour, which are necessary skills for everyone entering or wanting to re-enter employment. Our programmes include help with motivation, attitude problems, interpersonal skills and customer care skills. These skills relate to hard skills in that both are necessary to find and retain work.

Benefit Fraud (Publicity Campaign)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the breakdown of the costs of the publicity campaign to tackle benefit fraud. [18985]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) on 26 October 2001, Official Report, column 438W.

Independent Living Fund

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when his Department will publish the results of the quinquennial review into the Independent Living Fund; and what plans he has to abandon its means test. [23141]

Maria Eagle: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for the City of York (Mr. Bayley) today.

Attendance Allowance

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if adjudicating officers deciding on the eligibility for attendance allowance are advised to consider virtual inability to walk as defined by Cassinelli v. Secretary of State for Social Services TLR 6/12/91 as evidence that constant daytime supervision is required. [22959]

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Maria Eagle: When assessing whether someone satisfies the qualifying conditions for attendance allowance, decision makers (known as adjudication officers until 1999) are advised to take into account, among other things, whether that person needs supervision from another to avoid danger. It is the Department's view that the Court of Appeal in Cassinelli v. Secretary of State for Social Services is not relevant here as it did not address the question of supervision and only considered the meaning of "severe discomfort" as it related to mobility allowance, a benefit replaced in 1992 by disability living allowance.

Industrial Injuries

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when Pat Sutton, a constituent, will receive an answer from the Department's Medical Services about her industrial injuries benefit; and if he will make a statement. [20448]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 4 December 2001:] I have written to my hon. Friend.

Unemployment (Disabled People)

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the performance of Disability Employment Service instigated courses in finding work for unemployed disabled people. [11374]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The majority of unemployed disabled people find work through mainstream Jobcentre services and programmes which include vacancy displays, the various New Deals, Work Based Learning for Adults, Programme Centres and Work Trials.

The number of disabled people who entered work using these services last year (to March 2001) totalled 83,523. The number who have entered work this year up to the end of September totals 48,081.

In addition to these services there is a range of specialised support available from the Employment Service Disability Service Teams accessed through Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) who are based in Jobcentres. DEAs support clients who are more significantly disadvantaged in their search for work as the result of a disability and offer a range of additional programmes and services to their clients. These include the Access to Work programme, the Work Preparation programme, Workstep, Residential Work Based Learning for Adults and the Job Introduction scheme.

The number of people helped into work by DEAs last year (to March 2001) totalled 18,754. The number helped into work by DEA's this year, up to the end of September, totals 8,314.

Parliamentary Questions

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will answer the questions tabled by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak on 15 October, ref. 8410 and 8 October, ref. 7989. [16191]

Mr. McCartney: Question 8410 was answered on 30 November and question 7989 was answered on 29 November.

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Winter Fuel Payment (Buckingham)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) women aged over 60, (b) men aged over 65 and (c) men aged 60 to 65 receive the winter fuel payment in the Buckingham constituency. [22638]

Mr. McCartney: The information is not available in the format requested. However, for winter 2000–01, around 5,800 men aged 60 and over and around 8,800 women aged 60 and over in the Buckingham constituency received a winter fuel payment. The figure for this year will be similar.

Minimum Income Guarantee (Buckingham)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners received the minimum income guarantee in the Buckingham constituency in each year since 1998. [22636]

Mr. McCartney: The latest figures as at August 1998, 1999 and 2000 show that there were 1,400 pensioners in the Buckingham constituency receiving the minimum income guarantee. By August 2001 this figure had risen to 1,500 pensioners.

Private Pension Provision

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how his Department plans to encourage private pension provisions. [22664]

Mr. McCartney: This Government are committed to encourage private pension provision—through pension education, making saving pay, providing appropriate savings vehicles and better regulation. This strategy goes hand-in-hand with our broader reform of the pensions landscape with introduction of the state second pension and the launch of the pension service.

Our pension education campaign has been driving home the message that those who can afford to save have an obligation to do so. As part of this, combined pension forecasts will ensure that people have the right information to make well-informed decisions on their retirement income.

The introduction of stakeholder pensions has a significant impact the pensions landscape. Stakeholders are safe, flexible and value for money. For the first time, we have also opened up private pensions to non-earners—giving carers and the disabled a chance to build up a private pension. Since October, all employers with five or more employees must offer access to a stakeholder pension, unless they already offer an appropriate alternative, greatly increasing the coverage of private pension saving.

The Association of British Insurers has calculated that by the end of October nearly 300,000 employers had designated a scheme. The figures also show that some 492,000 policies have been sold in the first seven months since the introduction of stakeholder pensions in April.

We are committed to reforming the regulation of private pension provision. That is why we have commissioned Alan Pickering to lead a review of the regulatory regime, and to report in July with a package of measures for simplification. We have already accepted the recommendations of the Myners Review of institutional

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investment, are developing proposals to replace the minimum funding requirement with a long-term scheme-specific standard, and have consulted on a package of measures to speed up the winding-up of occupational pension schemes. Better regulation will be better for the individuals—by maintaining their security while removing unnecessary barriers to providing pensions.

From 2003, around half of all pensioners will stand to gain from the new pension credit. For the first time, saving will be rewarded rather than penalised. All single pensioners with weekly incomes of up to £135, and couples with weekly incomes up to £200, will receive a cash top-up. This reward will also be good news for women—around two in three recipients of the credit will be women, as women tend to have smaller pensions than men.

We believe that those who can afford to save for their retirement have an obligation to do so. Our policies will encourage and facilitate that saving, and allow every individual to make informed choices to safeguard their future.

Housing Benefit

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what records his Department keeps of the number of notified changes to housing benefit claims each year in each local authority; and whether such information is published. [17864]

Malcolm Wicks: Data are collected quarterly, through the Housing Benefit Management Information System, on specified changes of circumstances notified to local authorities by people claiming Housing Benefit. This information is not routinely published.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with local authorities regarding the introduction of an integrated claim form for housing benefit, council tax benefit and other benefits. [18001]

Malcolm Wicks: We expect Jobcentre Plus and local authorities to work closely together to provide a coherent service for customers. From next October, Jobcentre Plus offices plan to introduce an electronic process which allows us to collect information on a range of benefits only once and pass relevant housing benefit and council tax benefit claim details to local authorities. We are discussing these plans with the local authority associations on an on-going basis to ensure local authorities play a full role in the new processes we are developing.

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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reason it is not possible for housing benefit administrators to share data with his Department on benefits other than income support and jobseeker's allowance; and if he will make a statement. [15859]

Malcolm Wicks: All local authorities have clerical access to information held by the Department which is relevant to the processing of housing benefit claims.

Electronic access to income support and jobseeker's allowance data is already available through remote access terminals sited in local authorities. We are currently investigating how we can give local authorities tailored electronic access to other Departmental benefit data.

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