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Unemployment Statistics

26. Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the number of people of working age who are neither working nor registered as seeking work or as benefit claimants. [45038]

Malcolm Wicks: About 4.1 million people of working age are not working, registered for work or claiming benefits themselves.

People With Disabilities

27. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in helping people with disabilities to get and keep employment. [45039]

Maria Eagle: We have introduced a wide range of measures to help people with disabilities secure work where they are ready and able to do so.

We have improved the permitted work rules in incapacity benefit to make it easier for people to make the first moves into work. Over 8,200 people have already been helped into work through the new deal for disabled people pilots. Building on that success we now have a national network of job brokers from the public, private and voluntary sectors who work closely with employers, voluntary groups and health services to help people with health conditions and disabilities move into work. Later this year we are also introducing the job retention and rehabilitation pilots to test the effectiveness of making co-ordinated, earlier health and/or employment interventions to help people who become sick or disabled to stay in work.

Disability employment advisers continue to provide specialist support to disabled jobseekers, and disabled employees and their employers. Disability employment advisers can draw on the expertise of occupational psychologists to help disabled people find and retain work.

The roll-out of integrated Jobcentre Plus offices will provide disabled people with work-focused meetings with a personal adviser to ensure they are aware of all the help and opportunities available to them.

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We established the Disability Rights Commission to help disabled people secure their rights under the Disability Discrimination Act, and to provide information and advice to employers and service providers.

Pension Credit

28. Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate how many pensioners will not receive their entitlement to pension credit in this financial year. [45042]

Mr. McCartney: Over 5 million pensioners will be eligible for pension credit when it is introduced in October 2003. Those receiving pension credit stand to gain £400 a year on average.

Benefit Fraud

29. Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many cases of fraud there were in 2000–01 in income support. [45043]

Malcolm Wicks: It is not possible to state the exact number. We estimate, extrapolating from the results of the Area Benefit Reviews, that there were 204,000 cases of fraud in income support in 2000–01.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his targets are for the reduction of benefit fraud. [45025]

Malcolm Wicks: We have a target to reduce losses from fraud and error in income support and jobseeker's allowance by 25 per cent. by 2004 and by 50 per cent. by 2006. We have already achieved an 18 per cent. reduction.

From this month we are beginning to use new powers in the Fraud Act 2001 that make it easier to catch fraudsters and give greater punishments to those who persistently abuse the system.

Also from this month, all local authorities are now operating within the new incentive scheme, focusing on the full range of anti-fraud measures as well as customer error; 77 per cent. of local authorities have now signed up to participate in our verification framework that stops fraud from getting into the system in the first place. So far, net savings from the verification framework are estimated at about £100 million.

We have introduced the Housing Benefit review to provide a continuous measure of fraud and error in Housing Benefit. This will enable us to gauge the success of the range of initiatives we have put in place to tackle Housing Benefit fraud.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much benefit fraud cost his Department in each of the last five years; and how many people have been prosecuted for benefit fraud in the last year; and what range of penalties have been imposed. [47450]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 10 April 2002]: Our latest estimate is that £2 billion is lost each year through benefit fraud in the system. Latest results show that in the 2½ years to March 2001 we have reduced the level of fraud and error in income support and jobseeker's allowance by 18 per cent. In 2000–01 we imposed 26,958 sanctions, 11,403 of which involved prosecutions and 15,555 of which were cautions or other penalties.

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Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much money was paid in error owing to benefit fraud in Weston-Super-Mare in each of the last five years. [47761]

Malcolm Wicks: Information on the level of benefit fraud at constituency level is not available.

Deprived Areas (Unemployment)

30. Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to help people back into work in areas of acute social deprivation. [45044]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Our policies, built on a foundation of a strong and stable economy, are helping people into work in all parts of the country. The New Deals have already helped well over 600,000 people into jobs.

We have introduced Action Teams for Jobs to tackle joblessness in the most employment deprived areas in the country. They are performing well, and by the end of February had helped over 23,700 people into work. Since October 2001 we have increased the number of action teams from 40 to 63. At the same time, we expanded the Stockton action team to cover six new wards, all in my hon. Friend's constituency. This expanded team has already helped over 100 people into work.

Employment Zones are helping long-term unemployed people in deprived areas into work. By the end of December, the 15 zones had helped over 20,800 people into work. We are in the process of extending the existing zones' contracts until March 2004, and are currently fully evaluating zone performance before deciding how to take the initiative further.

This month we have established Jobcentre Plus which will deliver a single, integrated service to benefit claimants of working age right across the country. Jobcentre Plus will provide a responsive, work-focused service, helping people to find jobs and the support to which they are entitled.

Disabled People (Poverty)

32. Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his Department is doing to tackle poverty among disabled people. [45046]

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to tackle poverty among disabled people. [45040]

Maria Eagle: We are committed to the principle of work for those who can and security for those who are unable to work. We are promoting the rights of disabled people, making work pay and helping more disabled people to get and keep jobs.

This month we have established Jobcentre Plus which will deliver a single, integrated, work-focused service to people of working age claiming benefits. Those making new or repeat claims to incapacity benefit in integrated Jobcentre Plus offices are required to attend a work-focused meeting. These meetings provide disabled people with the opportunity to discuss with their personal adviser the help, benefits and opportunities available to them, including the opportunity to participate in the New Deal programmes.

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A disabled person working a minimum of 35 hours a week who claims the disabled person's tax credit is now guaranteed an income of at least £172 a week. By the end of October 2001 disabled person's tax credit was boosting the incomes of over 32,000 working people. From this month we have abolished the earnings limits in the independent living funds—both for these severely disabled people and their partners. At the same time we have extended help to people with savings of up to £18,500 by increasing capital limits in the funds.

We are also providing security for those who cannot work. The disability income guarantee helps around 130,000 of the poorest severely disabled people under 60 and some 34,000 families with severely disabled children. We have extended the higher rate mobility component of disability living allowance to severely disabled three and three-year-olds benefiting an estimated 6,000 severely disabled children every year. And from this month we have raised the disabled child premium in the income-related benefits to £35.50 a week giving an additional £5 on top of normal uprating. This will benefit around 80,000 children in the neediest families.

Action Teams for Jobs

33. Paul Goggins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the work of action teams for jobs. [45047]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Action Teams for Jobs are helping the most disadvantaged jobless people in the most employment deprived areas into work. They are performing well, developing innovative and individually tailored solutions to the problems people face when looking for work.

By the end of February, Action Teams had helped over 23,700 jobless people into work. In the first six months of the new South Manchester Action Team, which covers my hon. Friend's constituency, the team has engaged with 304 people and already helped 51 of these move into work.

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