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8 Jan 2002 : Column: 681W
|Calendar year||Number of infant deaths||Rate(37)|
(37) Per 1,000 live births
Registrations of births and deaths
Mr. Nicholas Brown: The positive effect of the new deal is confirmed by independent research carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. This found that, in the absence of new deal, long-term youth unemployment would be about twice as high as it now is.
The number of 18 to 24-year-olds unemployed for six months or more has fallen by over 70 per cent. in the last four years. Some of this improvement reflects the delivery of a strong and stable economy, but the new deal has
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helped unemployment to fall even faster. The number of people of all ages unemployed for six months or more fell by 50 per cent. over the same period.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his statement of 28 November, what plans he has (1) for the long-term unemployed to be employed in the national health service; 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: The intention is to offer participants a range of jobs from which to choose. Many employment placements will be with locally based intermediate labour market operators working mainly in the public and community sectors. Work in these areas will generally be of community benefit but in jobs which would otherwise not be economically viable. It is also hoped that the scheme will attract other employers. Clearly the range of jobs available will depend on the local labour market, but it is hoped that this will include opportunities in both the private and public sectors. Government Departments and the NHS will not be under any obligation to offer jobs to participants but will be free to do so.
Maria Eagle: We are giving people on benefits more choices and more help than ever before to move off welfare and into work, in return for greater responsibility to consider the help that is on offer. We recognise that some people will not be able to take advantage of initiatives to help them support themselves through work, so we are extending our support for them to ensure greater security.
In April 2001 we introduced the Disability Income Guarantee (DIG). DIG provides an extra premium, paid with income related benefits, to severely disabled people on the lowest incomes. Nationally, we expect that DIG will help around 130,000 of the poorest severely disabled people under 60, and around 30,000 families with severely disabled children.
Incapacity benefit helps people who satisfy the National Insurance contribution conditions and cannot be expected to work due to sickness or disability. In South Tyneside, which is composed of the parliamentary constituencies of South Shields and Jarrow, around 10,800 people are receiving incapacity benefit.
Income support is also available to help those disabled people who are unable to work. In South Tyneside 5,600 people are receiving income support with either a disability premium or a severe disability premium. We have also increased the disabled child premium in the income related benefits by substantially more than the normal uprating. Since 1997 we have increased this from £20.95 to £30.00, and from April 2002 it will increase to £35.50. There are 400 families in South Tyneside receiving the disabled child premium.
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Disability living allowance helps those severely disabled people under the age of 65 with extra costs due to the effects of their disability and provides extra help for those disabled early in life. In South Tyneside 9,218 people receive disability living allowance. Attendance allowance helps disabled people over the age of 65 with extra care costs due to the effects of their disability. In South Tyneside 4,067 people receive attendance allowance.
Mr. Darling: I met Frank Vandenbroucke, Minister for Social Affairs and Pensions, and Laurette Onkelinx, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, at the Employment and Social Policy Council on 3 December.
Malcolm Wicks: Our housing policy statement "Quality and Choice: A decent home for allThe way forward for housing" (December 2000) recognised that the fundamental challenge facing housing benefit is its administration. Problems with administering housing benefit can result in unacceptable levels of fraud and error, as well as backlogs of delayed claims.
Our immediate priority has therefore been to work in partnership with local authorities to improve standards of administration. For example, we have established the Help Team which offers practical advice and support to local authorities on ways to improve delivery. The team has already visited Hull, Lambeth, Bristol, Northampton, Derwentside and East Ayrshire. We have also set up a Help Fund to enable local authorities to formulate and implement improvement plans. In addition, we will introduce national performance standards to support the better administration of housing benefit from spring 2002.
Malcolm Wicks: The Verification Framework is designed to secure the gateway on to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit by defining the minimum standards for collecting evidence before a claim can be paid. As at 30 November 2001, 263 authorities have applied for or received funds to adopt the Framework. Of those 263 there are 240 authorities who are now fully compliant with the scheme.
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From April 2002 we will split the Verification Framework into three modules which can be introduced in stages. This, combined with other smaller administrative easements, will make it easier for local authorities to introduce and administer the Framework while maintaining a rigorous approach to preventing fraud and error.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many local authorities are achieving the claim processing times for Housing Benefit that were in existence prior to the implementation of the Verification Framework. 
Malcolm Wicks: Prior to the introduction of Best Value Performance Indicators in April 2000, information was not collected from local authorities on the length of time taken to process Housing Benefit claims. Under Best Value, information on average processing times is collected from English local authorities by the Audit Commission on behalf of the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR). Final performance figures for 200001 will be published by DTLR early in 2002.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the impact of the Verification Framework on the number of claims being made for Housing Benefit. 
Malcolm Wicks: Since 1997 there has been a year on year reduction in the number of people claiming Housing Benefit. It is not possible to determine how much of this reduction, if any, is due to the introduction of the Verification Framework. The fall can be attributed to a variety of factors including lower unemployment, demographic changes and our initiatives to secure the gateway on to Housing Benefit. The Department is currently carrying out an assessment of the impact of the Verification Framework which may provide more information as to its impact on Housing Benefit caseloads.
Malcolm Wicks: The Verification Framework and the Royal Mail Do Not Redirect schemes are not at present compulsory. However, we are monitoring closely take-up of these schemes and we would not rule out this option, should take-up prove to be unsatisfactory over time.
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