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Social Fund

Paul Goggins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many social fund budgeting loans were made in 2000–01. [56991]

Malcolm Wicks: In 2000–01, there were 1,145,000 initial Budgeting Loan awards, an increase of 128,000 compared with 1999–2000. While Budgeting Loan applications increased by only 3 per cent, successful applications at the initial stage rose by 13 per cent.

This corrects figures given in paragraph 17 of the Government's response (Cm 5237) to the third report of the Social Security Select Committee on the social fund, Session 2000–01 (HC232).

Red Cross

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what financial support his Department has given since 1 April 2000 to projects run by the British Red Cross. [52948]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 26 April 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle) on 29 April 2002, Official Report, columns 609–10W.

Hard-to-help Client Groups

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to involve the private sector in Jobcentre Plus and other emerging departmental programmes as a means for the social inclusion of hard-to-help client groups. [53098]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Jobcentre Plus and its predecessor the Employment Service has always involved the private sector in delivering its programmes for unemployed people.

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Its contracted provision including programme centres, worked based learning for adults, basic employability training, short intensive basic skills courses and basic skills independent assessments is largely delivered by contracts with the private sector.

Under the New Deals, elements of the Gateway, Options and intensive activity period are also delivered by the private sector. In addition, the private sector lead in the delivery of the New Deals in ten areas of the country and there is currently a competition under way for future private sector led New Deal contracts in these areas together with two new areas. In all Jobcentre Plus has several thousand contracts with over 1,000 providers to deliver programmes for individual jobless people. These providers are drawn from the private, voluntary and public sectors; we know that the majority, probably about three quarters of the total are private sector organisations.

Cross cutting initiatives such as action teams and new programmes such as Progress2Work, Outreach and StepUP will also involve the private sector as do employment zones which are entirely private sector led.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost of each of his Department's initiatives to encourage carer take-up of the state second pension. [54518]

Maria Eagle: Most people will automatically benefit from the state second pension without having to do anything new or different. Our publicity activity therefore focuses on the groups who may not automatically start building up state second pension and may need to take appropriate action. This includes parents as well as carers.

We have produced information both on our website and as a leaflet to inform these two groups about the state second pension and to outline any action they may need to take to build up entitlement. We are also currently conducting promotional activity for carers and parents about state second pension, which includes press advertising in national and local press and relevant magazines, and direct mail to relevant advisory organisations. The costs for the current phase of the activity (from March to May 2002) are estimated at £750,000, but will be subject to some revisions as the publicity activity is still ongoing. These costs do not include the leaflet or website costs—these items will be available on an ongoing basis.

We anticipate carrying out further promotional activity in the future to continue to ensure that people are aware of the action they need to take to benefit from the availability of the state second pension.

British Sign Language

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to recognise British Sign Language as a language in its own right. [55337]

Maria Eagle: There have been calls for the Government to recognise British Sign Language by specifying it under the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Advice is that the charter was not intended to cover indigenous sign languages. However, the Council's

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Parliamentary Assembly has called on the Council to give sign languages used in Europe a protection similar to that afforded by the charter. The Council is currently considering how that might be done and the Government will respond to any proposals in due course.

Age Positive Campaign

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the impact of the Age Positive publicity campaign, with particular reference to supportive and participating companies based in the Teesside area. [48586]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The Age Positive campaign seeks to promote the message that is makes good business sense to encourage age diverse practices in the work place. It is aimed at all employers and individuals across Great Britain.

The campaign has used a wide variety of promotional methods to ensure that access to information and guidance is available as widely as possible. A range of media including advertising, PR, website, direct mail and key exhibitions has been used to promote the business benefits of an age diverse work force.

Findings from the Evaluation of the Code of Practice indicate that between March 1999 and October 2000 the incidence of the use of age in selection halved from 27 per cent. to 13 per cent. In addition companies having a policy against employing older workers dropped from 14 per cent. to 7 per cent.

Thirty-two Age Positive champions have submitted evidence on their commitment to Age Positive practices and have given active support to the campaign.

Currently there are no companies in the Teesside area that have offered particular support but we are continually seeking to increase the number and range of Age Positive champions and positive case studies.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to respond to the questions from the hon. Member for Havant, refs (a) 24239, (b) 28580, (c) 33624 and (d) 33628. [47766]

Malcolm Wicks: Replies were given to the hon. Member on 10 April, 22 April, 10 April and 11 April.


Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the impact of the measures designed by his Department to reduce youth and long-term unemployment in the Greater London area. [53868]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Since 1997 in London, youth unemployment has fallen by 44 per cent. and long-term unemployment has been cut by three quarters.

The Department's policies have played an important part in this success. Up to January 2002, the New Deal for Young People had helped 43,765 young Londoners off benefit and into work and New Deal 25 plus had helped 16,612 long-term unemployed people into jobs across the capital.

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In addition, nearly 13,000 people from some of London's most deprived areas have been helped into work through Employment Zones and Action Teams for Jobs.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what impact his policies have had on the unemployment level in the Tooting constituency since May 1997; and if he will make a statement. [53874]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Since 1997 the overall level of unemployment in Tooting has fallen by half and long-term unemployment has been cut by three-quarters. The Department's policies have played an important role in this success. Up to January 2002, the New Deals had helped over 1,000 people into work in Tooting.


Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the payment of benefit to polygamous wives resident abroad. [51206]

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what rules apply for the issuing of benefits to people and their spouses who are given residency in this country and come from cultures where polygamy is culturally acceptable. [48212]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 19 April 2002]: Income-related benefits are not generally payable to, or in respect of, people who are resident abroad, regardless of whether they are in a monogamous or polygamous relationship.

However, when a person or their partner goes abroad temporarily, Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance already in payment may continue to be paid for the first four weeks of absence. This may be extended to eight weeks if the reason for the absence is to accompany a child for medical treatment abroad.

In Housing Benefit (HB), entitlement may continue in respect of each member of the household if there is a temporary absence from home of up to 13 weeks: this rule would include, for example, trips abroad to visit relatives or friends. But if the temporary absence is for more pressing reasons, for example medical treatment, HB can continue for up to 52 weeks. This more generous provision recognises the importance of HB in keeping roofs over people's heads.

These temporary absence rules apply in all HB cases, including those involving polygamous marriages. To make an exception for the latter would be discriminatory.

The amount of benefit payable includes personal allowances for the benefit recipient and one partner at the appropriate couple rate and, for each other partner, the difference between the higher rate for a couple and the higher rate for a single person. In general there is no financial advantage to claiming for those in polygamous marriages. Having separate claims for a couple and for other members of the marriage would normally result in more benefit being paid. Benefit entitlement for any additional partners is restricted to an allowance which is less than the rate for single people.

People in polygamous marriages are not entitled to contributory Social Security benefits in respect of their marital partners.

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