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6 Nov 2002 : Column 308Wcontinued
Mr. Keith Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he has taken to implement the recommendations relevant to his Department in the Social Exclusion Unit report ''Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners.'' 
Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will introduce a fast-track scheme to provide interim advance payments to people who appear to have a valid claim to benefit; 
Malcolm Wicks: We recognise that many people making a claim to benefit will be in need of immediate financial support. To avoid unnecessary hardship, discretionary payments on account of benefit can be made where a claim has not been determined but the Decision Maker is satisfied that the basic conditions of entitlement for the benefit are likely to be met.
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Social Fund Crisis Loans can be made to people in an emergency where there are no other means of preventing serious damage or serious risk to health or safety. An inherent feature of Crisis Loan applications is that they should be dealt with on the day the need arises.
In the case of the regulated Social Fund, for example Sure Start Maternity Grants or Funeral Payments, it would not be appropriate to make interim awards pending receipt of a valid claim. However, we believe arrangements for both elements of the scheme are sufficiently flexible to allow staff to have regard to the urgency of an application.
Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the rules will be for passporting families to entitlement to the Sure Start maternity grant when the new tax credits come into force in April 2003. 
Maria Eagle: From April 2003, Sure Start Maternity Grants will be payable to families receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Child Tax Credit at a rate greater than the family element, or Working Tax Credit where a disabled worker is included in the assessment.
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 4 November 2002]: A target of 75 per cent. compliance, to be achieved by the end of 2003 and applying to cases assessed under the new scheme, was included in 2000 in the Public Services Agreement for the former Department of Social Security. We have a long-term goal of improving on this figure, as our experience of the new scheme increases.
Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the letter sent to hon. Members on 19 September 2002 by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a copy of which was placed in the Library.
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Malcolm Wicks: The double debt rule is designed to ensure that people do not become over indebted by borrowing additional amounts from the Social Fund until they have repaid a reasonable proportion of the original loan. Further loans are refused to applicants who have an outstanding budgeting loan debt of more than half the maximum amount available to them. Once their existing debt drops to less than half they can reapply, although the amount of further loan available to them could still be affected by any outstanding debt.
It is estimated that the cost of abolishing the rule while broadly maintaining maximum amounts available, would be around #100m in the first year. The cost would fall to #25m in the second year and #10m in the third 1 .
Information is not available on the number of people applying for budgeting loans who already have an outstanding Social Fund loan. However, during 200001, 1,114,000 2 , 3 applications were made for a Social Fund budgeting loan where there was an existing Social Fund debt. This figure will include cases where one person has made more than one application.
Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the benefit claims forms that referred claimants to the Citizens Advice Bureaux Service for assistance and advice in their completion as at 30th September; what percentage of documents issued referred benefits claimants to Citizens Advice Bureaux (a) in 2001 and (b) up to 30th September; and what discussions the Government has had with the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux in respect of the inclusion of such references to advice. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 23 October 2002]: In accordance with the expressed wishes of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, the Department routinely advises customers on its claim forms and other written information products that they may seek further advice from sources such as their local Citizens Advice Bureau.
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confirmed with the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux that it is still their wish that we should do so. The purpose of the reference to local Citizen's Advice Bureaux is to make customers aware of the availability of their independent advisory services.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library a copy of the letter to be sent to child benefit customers on 28th October informing them of their options for receiving benefit from April 2003. 
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Malcolm Wicks: A copy of the mailing sent to child benefit customers has been placed in the Library. The mailing consists of an invitation letter, supplementary information, a form to capture bank details and a pre-paid envelope. It explains account options that are open to customers and how to transfer to payment directly into an account.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if his Department's research programme for 200203 includes research into the impact on the health of mental health service users of his Department's benefits policies; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Department has no plans to conduct research into the impact on the health of mental health service users of the Department's benefit policies in its 20022003-research programme. However, the Department conducts a wide range of research with its service users, which includes mental health service users in receipt of benefits.
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