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Sustainability Strategy

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the sustainability strategy is for his Department; and if he will make a statement on how it has changed since the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg. [83499]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Sustainable development is an integral part of the Department's annual planning cycle, which is subject to mid-year review. We were one of the first Departments to do this.

We have embraced sustainable development in our Strategic Framework to 2006 XEducation and Skills—delivering results; A Strategy to 2006", where we have said publicly that we will deliver:

This recognises the significant impact on the social and economic aspects of sustainable development through our core business of raising educational standards and improving skills, including education for sustainable development (ESD). Specific actions include a statutory entitlement to ESD in the revised National Curriculum in England and the introduction of Citizenship as a new National Curriculum subject from September 2002. We are ensuring that we build on this progress through our joint sponsorship with DEFRA of the Sustainable Development Education Panel and through specific school initiatives such as Growing Schools, which promotes the outdoor classroom.

Furthermore, the Learning and Skills Council have funded 11 pilots to identify and share good practice on education for sustainable development in the Further Education sector, and have plans for a further 12 pilots. While in higher education, we are supporting the Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (HEPS) project through the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which aims to develop a sustainability reporting system for the higher education sector.

We have reported progress made by the Department for Education and Skills estate in the recent Sustainable Development in Government Report for 2002, launched on 27 November, and towards the UK Sustainable Development headline indicators in the Government Annual Report on Sustainable Development. This Department has a direct influence on two headline indicators: H5—Qualifications at age 19; and H4—working age people with no qualifications, as well as eight lower level Xnational" indicators.

In line with new targets set out in the Framework for Sustainable Development on the Government Estate, we will be reporting, along with other Departments, on our various sustainable development impacts, progress and achievements by April 2003. This will take the form of a new website bringing together the various sources

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of information about the Department for Education and Skills' sustainable development impacts and achievements in one easily accessible place.

Outcomes from the World Summit on Sustainable Development and first views on follow-up will be reflected in the Government Annual Report on Sustainable Development for 2002. We will consider the outcomes, along with other Departments and will contribute where necessary.

Teachers (Housing Costs)

Mr. Horam: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what arrangements are being made to help teachers in Further Education Colleges with their housing costs. [82475]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 27 November 2002]: We recognise that staff in the further education (FE) sector need to be able to find affordable homes within a reasonable distance from their work place.

On 19 November the Secretary of State announced that the total funding for FE is set to rise by £1.2 billion between 2002–03 and 2005–06, a real terms increase of 19 per cent. From next year, colleges which have demonstrated their effectiveness will have three year funding deals allowing them to plan on a longer-term basis, with increases linked to performance. We will also consolidate the funds provided for the Teaching Pay Initiative into core funding. The substantial real terms increases in core funding, over and above the costs of additional students and inflation, and the three year funding agreements should enable colleges to deliver the improvements in pay that staff deserve.

The Government is also making an additional £1.4 billion available in the period 2003–06 to help improve the supply of affordable housing. As part of this, the Starter Homes Initiative (SHI) aims to help key workers to buy homes in areas where the high cost of housing is undermining recruitment and retention. While FE teachers are not identified as a priority for the SHI, they may be eligible for loans or cash grants in some areas because of local flexibilities in delivering the scheme.

Universal Career Service

Dr. Francis : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to develop a universal career service. [82887]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Through the Connexions Service, all young people aged 13 to 19 in England will have access to a Personal Adviser (PA). One of the key roles of the Connexions PA is to provide independent information, advice and guidance on learning and career options. Support may be delivered in class or small group settings, or through one-to-one interviews, depending on the young person's needs. The Connexions Service is now operating in 44 Partnership areas and there will be complete coverage (in all 47 areas, i.e. in all 150 English local education authorities) by 2003.

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Benefit Claim Packs

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit claim packs are issued by his Department which refer claimants to Citizens Advice Bureau for advice and assistance. [84227]

Malcolm Wicks: During 2001–02, over 21.5 million benefit claim packs were printed and issued to the Department's local offices. The Department does not keep records of the number of these packs which have been issued to members of the public or requested by the Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Our staff offer people the help and advice they need to claim the benefits they are entitled to, and the support those who are able to work need to find jobs. In accordance with the express wishes of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, many of our claim packs and leaflets advise people that they can receive independent advice from their local Citizens Advice Bureau. The Department has no information on the number of people who seek such advice and does not keep records of the number who are directed by staff to a Citizens Advice Bureau or other local advisory services.

Disabled People's Rights

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on how many occasions the Ministerial Taskforce on Civil Rights for Disabled People has met since its establishment; and if he will list its membership. [84436]

Maria Eagle: The Disability Rights Task Force met 17 times between 16 December 1997 and 15 November 1999. It no longer exists but its membership when it completed its work was as follows:

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The titles and organisations named are those relating to the members' positions at the time.


Mr. Olner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when funeral payments were last capped; and when he will implement the recommendation of the Social Security Committee that the cap on funeral payments should be increased. [83238]

Malcolm Wicks: The present Social Fund funeral payments scheme was introduced in 1997. On 27 November, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his pre-Budget report that a further £15 million will be made available for the scheme. This means that from this coming April, the amount allowed for funeral expenses not specified in regulations will rise from £600 to £700.

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