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Guardian's Allowance

David Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will change the conditions for receiving Guardian's Allowance. [46931]

Malcolm Wicks: Guardians Allowance (GA) is currently paid to people bringing up a child whose parents have either died, or where there is a surviving parent who cannot be traced, or who is serving a prison sentence of five years or more.

From 1 April 2002, we will extend entitlement to GA to those caring for children with a surviving parent who has been ordered by a court to be detained in a hospital, or sentenced to a term of imprisonment for two years or more. This will help to allow more children to remain within their extended family.


Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when he will reply to the letter of 17 January from the hon. Member for Fareham, concerning Mrs. McDonald. [45805]

Maria Eagle: I replied to the hon. Member on 25 March 2002.

Minimum Income Guarantee

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many pensioners are claiming the minimum income guarantee in the Clwyd, South constituency. [41388]

Mr. Nick Brown: As at November 2001, there were 2,500 Minimum Income Guarantee claimants in the parliamentary constituency of Clwyd South.

Long-Stay Patients (Benefits)

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, (1) what considerations led to the figure of #14.50 allocated to those in long-stay hospitals who are in receipt of a state benefit; [45144]

Maria Eagle [holding reply 21 March 2002]: We have considered carefully the impact of the current rules which reduce certain benefits paid to pensioners and people of working age after six weeks of hospitalisation. The down rating of benefits preserves the principle that the State should not make double provision. It also recognises that a substantial number of people leave hospital before six weeks.

We consider the six week rule strikes a fair balance between what the state should provide financially and the provision individuals should make for themselves,

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however, we also recognise that people have on-going financial commitments whilst in hospital. We therefore announed on 5 March 2002 that we have decided to extend the period before benefits are downrated by a further seven weeks to the 13 week stage. This will mean that people previously affected by the six week rule will be able to keep their benefits untouched if their period of stay in hospital is under 13 weeks. This will account for the majority of stays.

We will introduce this change to coincide with the introduction of Pension Credit.

The hospital personal allowance, currently #14.50 per week, is intended to provide for small personal items not provided by the hospital and is set by legislation. The amount is currently set as a percentage of Retirement Pension, which is reviewed every year. Benefit is restricted to this amount because, generally speaking, the National Health Service can be said to have assumed, to a large degree, the responsibility of providing for patients who have spent more than 52 weeks in hospital. There are no plans to change the amount by which benefits are reduced for hospital inpatients who have been in hospital for more than 52 weeks.


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the (a) private finance initiative and (b) public private partnership projects which have been delayed. [44874]

Mr. Darling: None of the Department's 10 PFI/PPP projects have been delayed beyond the expected or forecast contract close date.

Payments to contractors under PFI are not usually made until the service is available. As I explained in my statement 20 March, Official Report, column 316W, that in one case, developing the new Child Support computer system, testing work is not yet complete. The Department will not pay EDS for the system until it meets the standard required.

New Deal

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his latest estimate is of the (a) number and (b) proportion of participants in the New Deal for Young People who have left the scheme for unknown destinations. [44899]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Figures on young people who leave the New Deal for unknown destinations are contained in the regularly published Statistical First Releases which are available in the Library.

Energy Costs

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on energy costs incurred by his Department in each of the last 10 years. [42442]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Rural Affairs (Alun Michael) on 19 March 2002, Official Report, Volume 382, column 268W.

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Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements his Department has made to celebrate (a) St. Patrick's Day, (b) St. George's Day, (c) St. Andrew's Day and (d) Her Majesty the Queen's Golden Jubilee; and how his Department celebrated St. David's Day. [42299]

Malcolm Wicks: There are certain days of the year known as Xnamed days" when the Union flag must be flown from Government buildings. The days include St. David's day (in Wales), St. George's day (in England), St. Andrew's day (in Scotland) but not St. Patrick's day. In the Department for Work and Pensions there are no celebrations other than raising the Union flag.

Consideration is being given to the Union flag flying protocol for the Jubilee. The Union flag will fly on Coronation Day (2 June), as this is a named day.

I should also like to refer the hon. Member to the reply the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport gave to the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) on 11 February 2002, Official Report, columns 58–59W. In the Department for Work and Pensions all staff will be given the additional public holiday on 3 June 2002 to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's Golden Jubilee.

Minimum Income Guarantee

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate how many of the single pensioners who fail to take up their entitlement to the minimum income guarantee are aged 80 years or above. [32615]

Mr. Nick Brown: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available can be found in the publication XTake Up of Income Related Benefits: Statistics for 1999–2000", copies of which are available in the Library.

Working Families Tax Credit

Andy King: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps have been taken by his Department to ensure that the tapers determining the amount of housing and council tax benefit to which the recipients of working families tax credit are entitled do not result in a lower income in work after rent and council tax than out of work after receiving 100 per cent. housing benefit and council tax benefit. [29534]

Malcolm Wicks [holding reply 25 January 2002]: We are transforming the welfare system from a passive organisation paying out benefits to an active system that fights poverty, creates opportunity and helps people become self-sufficient.

In support of these aims we are ensuring that work pays. The Working Families Tax Credit and the National Minimum Wage have for the first time guaranteed a minimum income for working families with children. These measures together guarantee that every family with children where at least one person is working 35 hours a week will receive a minimum income of #225 a week, or almost #12,000 a year.

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Entitlement to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit is assessed by comparing a person's net income, less income disregards, with the amount they would receive on Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. For each pound that their income exceeds this level, the amount of benefit payable is reduced by fixed tapers. For people moving from welfare into work these tapers ensure they are better off.

For people in work, who receive a pay rise, the combined effect of the tapers in Working Families Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit means they remain better off. If Working Families Tax Credit was not taken into account in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit families who worked longer hours or took better paid jobs would be worse off as they would face high marginal deduction rates.

Housing Benefit Fraud

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the Department's policy towards providing incentives for local authority procedures for reducing housing benefit fraud. [34423]

Malcolm Wicks: Our immediate priority for Housing Benefit is to work with local authorities to drive up standards across the board, tackle fraud and error and promote work incentives. We have introduced a wide range of measures providing incentives for local authorities to tackle housing benefit fraud.

In November 1997 we launched the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate to help raise standards in secure housing benefit administration. The BFI has so far published 116 reports helping local authorities to tackle weaknesses in their services and identifying and spreading good practice.

In April 1998 we tightened the criteria for establishing fraud to prevent abuse of the Weekly Benefit Savings scheme which was originally introduced in 1993.

In May 1998 we introduced the Verification Framework to help prevent fraud and error from entering the housing benefit system and help to detect it when it occurs. #160 million has been made available from April 2001 to fund local authorities which sign up to the Verification Framework, and over 75 per cent. of authorities have now done so.

In April 2001 we introduced a comprehensive new anti-fraud scheme for local authorities that provides a broader range of financial incentives to prevent, detect, punish and prosecute fraud than did the old Weekly Benefit Savings scheme. To fund these two schemes we have made #180 million available since April 2001. Sixty-three authorities adopted the new scheme in April 2001 and the remaining authorities will do so in April this year.

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