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15 Oct 2002 : Column 634W—continued

Disability and Carers Service

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will extend the one day impairment awareness courses for decisions makers in the Disability and Carers Service which cover mental health and learning disabilities to other impairments; [74135]

Maria Eagle: There is an on-going programme of training for all staff in the Disability and Carers Service, which includes a one-day module on Disability Awareness encompassing a range of disability issues, including deaf awareness, together with two specialist one-day modules for Decision Makers covering Mental Health and Learning Disability issues. There is a commitment to review the scope of the Programme with a view to extending the specialist modules for Decision Makers to other impairments in due course.


Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make it the policy of his Department to ensure that every deaf person who needs assistance with completing a disability living allowance or attendance allowance claim form and who cannot access the telephone form completion service is entitled to a home visit instead. [74138]

Maria Eagle: The Disability and Carer's Service policy, in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, ensures accessibility of information for all disabled people. If a deaf person requires help to complete a benefit claim form for Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance and cannot use the telephone forms completion service, which includes text phone facilities, we would arrange an interview with the appropriate interpreter present. The interview could take place at the nearest Social Security office but, if this presents difficulties for the customer, we could arrange for it to take place at home.

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Nut Allergies

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reason disability living allowance and carers allowance are not available to the parents of children with nut allergies. [73901]

Maria Eagle: Children with nut allergies are not precluded from entitlement to Disability Living Allowance, and neither are their parents precluded from receiving Invalid Care Allowance for looking after them. But they must meet the usual qualifying conditions for the benefits. For Invalid Care allowance this means that the carer must not be engaged in full-time paid employment and must provide regular and substantial care for a least 35 hours per week to a severely disabled person receiving either the middle or highest rate of the Disability Living Allowance care component. To qualify for that component, a severely disabled child must have a need for attention, supervision or watching over by another person which is substantially in excess of the needs of an able-bodied child of the same age.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his advertising campaign on rights to inherited SERPS, for what reason there are special rates for women born in a particular four month period, as set out in the footnote to these advertisements. [74452]

Mr. McCartney: Women born between 6 July 1950 and 5 October 1950 will attain state pension age after 6 April 2010, and will therefore be able to pass on up to 50 per cent. of their SERPS.

This is because their state pension age is over 60 as part of the equalisation of state pension age.

Incapacity Benefit

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on the entitlement to passported help available to claimants who have received the higher rate of incapacity benefit for over 12 months; [73888]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We have reformed Incapacity Benefit (IB) and Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) in order to provide more support to young people disabled early in life who have never had the opportunity to work.

From 6 April 2001 young people whose incapacity begins before the age of 20 (or 25 for those continuing in education until age 20) may qualify for IB even if they have not satisfied the contribution conditions. Existing SDA recipients under the age of 20 on 6 April 2001 were automatically transferred to long-term IB in April 2002. We estimate that around 175,000 young people will benefit from the change over time.

Depending on their circumstances people receiving IB can qualify for help with the cost of NHS treatment on the grounds of low income. They may also be entitled to

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Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Social Fund crisis loans are available to people who are without resources, irrespective of their benefit status, to prevent serious damage or risk to health or safety in the event of an emergency or a disaster. A variety of local government schemes and benefits are also available to people on low incomes. Details of these schemes are not held centrally.

We recognise that some young people who transfer from SDA to IB will no longer have automatic entitlement to this help but many in this group will already be considerably better off as a result of the changes we have introduced and it would be unfair to treat these people differently to other IB recipients.

Benefit Payments

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the proportion of parents with care in receipt of income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance and corresponding benefits in earlier years, who were in receipt of child maintenance in (a) 1979, (b) 1993, (c) 1997 and (d) the latest year for which figures are available. [71036]

Malcolm Wicks: The available information is set out in the table below. No reliable estimates for parents with care, on a comparable basis to those for 1997 and 2002, are available for 1979 and 1993. Figures for 1997 and 2002 are for parents with care with a full maintenance assessment.

YearCaseload 1 ('000)% receiving maintenance (income-related benefits 2 /tax credits)


1 Information based on the Child Support Quarterly Summary of Statistics, for February in each of the years, which is a 5 per cent. sample of all ''live and assessed'' cases on the Child Support Computer System.

2 Income-related benefits covered are Income Support and income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, for both years, and Family Credit and Disability Working Allowance for 1997 only.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of benefit claimants receive their benefits by automated credit transfer, broken down by parliamentary constituency, at the latest date for which figures are available. [74720]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested. Statistical information that is readily available, can only be provided by individual benefit for each parliamentary constituency. This information has been placed in the library.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) dates, (b) location and (c) sources were of attributable (i) articles, interviews or contributions for the media, books or other journals and (ii) speeches or presentations made in the public domain, by departmental special advisers since March 2001; who in his Department authorised the activity; and on what date this activity was recorded with the departmental Head of Information. [72257]

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Mr. McCartney: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 24 July, Official Report, col. 1373W.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the Government's proposals on fraud in the benefit system. [69738]

Malcolm Wicks: We set ourselves a firm Public Service Agreement target to make a 10 per cent. reduction in the level of fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance by March 2002. By September 2001 we had achieved a 24 per cent. reduction—more than double the target.

We have now announced an increase in our target for reducing fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance for working age customers by March 2004, from 25 per cent. to 33 per cent., and we maintain our longer-term commitment to a 50 per cent. reduction by March 2006. We have also announced a new target of a 25 per cent. reduction in fraud and error in Housing Benefit by 2006.

In April we introduced a range of measures using powers taken in the Fraud Act 2001 which will help us tackle fraudsters. For example, investigators can now request information from banks and utilities to find evidence of fraud and they have stronger powers to tackle employers who collude with their staff to defraud the benefit system. We now also have the power to remove benefits from those people who persistently abuse the system.

These new powers will help us continue our fight to make sure that the right benefits go to the right people. They are also sending out the clear message to fraudsters that they will not get away with it.

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