|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
7 Nov 2002 : Column 673Wcontinued
Mr. Nicholas Brown: There is no central register of people who are clinically blind or partially sighted. However, some information on the number of people reporting a visual impairment is available from the Labour Force Survey. The available information is in the table.
|Percentage Not In Employment|
1. Percentages are calculated from the Spring 2002 Labour Force Survey.
2. The data do not include respondents whose eyesight problems are effectively compensated for by wearing glasses or contact lenses. However, the LFS may overstate the numbers because some of those who identify difficulty in seeing would not necessarily be diagnosed as blind or partially sighted.
3. The term ''not in employment'' includes people who are not actively seeking work as well as those who are covered by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition of unemployment. The ILO unemployment rates for people with visual impairments are only available for England and the UK because of small sample sizes.
John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Henderson) of 21 October 2004 Official Report, column 14, on the Universal Bank, what alternative arrangements he will put in place for those people who will not be able to use the PIN number associated with a Post Office card account. 
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which benefits he intends to transfer from cash payments to direct bank transactions in April 2003; and of these (a) what proportion of recipients he
7 Nov 2002 : Column 674W
expects will opt to continue receiving payments in cash and (b) what saving his Department will make in the cost of making payments. 
Even where a customer is paid directly into an account, they can still collect their cash at post office branches, either through existing network banking arrangements between Post Office Ltd and several banks or, from 2003, through universal banking services at post offices.
Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether it is possible for somebody to become financially worse off as a consequence of moving from a position of receiving income support and housing benefit and council tax benefit to a position of receiving incapacity benefit with the right to put a claim in for housing benefit and council tax benefit. 
Malcolm Wicks: Where a person is not in receipt of Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, entitlement to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit is assessed by comparing a person's net income with an amount which is broadly similar to what they would receive on either Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. For each pound that their income exceeds that level, the amount of benefit payable is reduced by fixed tapers of 65 pence for Housing Benefit and 20 pence for Council Tax Benefit. As a consequence people will generally see an improvement in their overall financial position.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many staff are employed by Jobcentre Plus on anti-fraud work; and how many people were employed in total on this work in the two predecessor departments. 
Malcolm Wicks: The overall aim of the Department's anti-fraud strategy is to have a benefit system, which is secure from first claim to final payment. The implementation of this strategy means that an anti-fraud focus is integral to the work of all staff in the Department, as is dealing with the wider agenda of error and incorrectness in benefit payments.
When the Department for Work and Pensions was established, the Employment Service, which was an Agency of the former Department for Education and Employment, did not have any staff dealing specifically with benefit fraud.
7 Nov 2002 : Column 675W
The information currently available suggests that, over recent years, around 5,000 staff have been employed by the Department and its agencies in work to investigate suspicions of fraud. However, taking account of changes in data collection measures over time and the integration of investigators more fully with frontline staff, it is clear to me we need to improve the validity of and reliability of year on year comparisons, and I have asked the Department to undertake further work on this. I have concluded that it is not possible to make valid comparisons between figures year-on-year.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the rate of staff turnover in each of the last three years in (a) benefit fraud inspection work and (b) his Department as a whole. 
Malcolm Wicks: The overall aim of the Department's anti-fraud strategy is to have a benefit system which is secure from first claim to final payment. The implementation of this strategy means that an anti-fraud focus is integral to the work of all staff in the Department, as is dealing with the wider agenda of error and incorrectness in benefit payments.
The information currently available suggests that, throughout the period, around 5,000 staff have been employed by the Department and its agencies in work to investigate suspicions of fraud. However, on examination, it is clear that data on the number of staff is not consistent as data collection measures have changed over time and as the deployment of investigators has become more fully integrated with front line staff. I have concluded that it is not possible to make valid compariaons between the figures year-on year.
The following table provides information available on the total numbers of permanent staff and numbers of leavers in the last three years, for the areas that now come under the Department for Work and Pensions.
|Year (1 April to 31 March)||Permanent Staff||Leavers|
7 Nov 2002 : Column 676W
Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will review the rules that require family members not on qualifying benefits to pay for funerals, rather than receiving help from the Social Fund; 
(3) if he will review the operation of the rules that require the liability of family members not on a qualifying benefit to be considered when application for a funeral grant is made. 
Social Fund funeral payments cover the cost of necessary charges including fees levied by burial authorities and crematoria. In addition, up to #600 is allowed for other funeral expenses. This gives the person arranging the funeral the freedom to select the items or services they consider appropriate.
Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on his policy on the future availability of Social Fund loans and their extension to a wider group of people on low incomes, with particular reference to (a) providing support to families with children and (b) combating social exclusion; 
(3) if he will review the arrangements for access to Crisis Loans; 
(4) if he will abolish the qualification period of 26 weeks for Budgeting Loans; 
(5) if he will change the eligibility criteria to enable people whose sole income is contributory benefit such as incapacity benefit or contribution based jobseeker's allowance to apply for help from both the discretionary and the regulated Social Fund. 
Malcolm Wicks: Our priority is to tackle poverty and combat social exclusion by helping those who are able into work and making work pay, and increasing support for the most vulnerable members of society: children, pensioners, and disabled people.
Access to a Crisis Loan is available to anyone in an emergency or as a consequence of a disaster where there is no other means of preventing serious damage or serious risk to their health or safety or that of their family. There is no requirement for a Crisis Loan
7 Nov 2002 : Column 677W
applicant to be receiving an income-related benefit, but any income or capital they have will be taken into account.
Over 1 million Budgeting Loans were provided to people last year. We believe it is right that there should be a waiting period before these loans become available and that six months is a reasonable period for people to rely on their own resources before turning to the state.
Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will change the eligibility criteria to allow people who qualify for the maximum child credit and working tax credit to apply for help from both the discretionary and the regulated Social Fund. 
Malcolm Wicks: With the introduction of the New Tax Credits from April 2003, anyone who receives the Child Tax Credit at the maximum rate or any other rate greater than the family element, or the Working Tax Credit where a disabled worker is included in the assessment, will qualify for Sure Start Maternity Grants and Funeral Payments from the regulated Social Fund, provided that all of the other eligibility criteria are met.
Patsy Calton: To ask the the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will ensure that from April 2003, people who qualify for maximum child credit and/or who qualify for Working Tax Credit are eligible to apply for grants from the regulated Social Fund, with particular reference to (a) Sure Start Maternity Grants and (b) Funeral Grants. 
Malcolm Wicks: From April 2003, Sure Start Maternity Grants and Funeral Payments will be payable to families receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Child Tax Credit at the maximum rate or any other rate greater than the family element, or Working Tax Credit where a disabled worker is included in the assessment.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|