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CABINET OFFICE

E-Envoy

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many consultants were used and employed by the e-Envoy in (a) 1999–2000, (b) 2000–01 and (c) 2001–02; and what they cost in each year. [85067]

Mr. Alexander: The Office of the e-Envoy's expenditure on consultancy projects was £5,046,618 in 1999–2000, £3,543,147 in 2000–01 and £4,602,142 in 2001–02. No information is available on the number of staff employed by the consulting firms in delivering these projects.

WORK AND PENSIONS

Benefit Take-up

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the report of the National Audit Office on the failure of pensioners to claim their entitled benefits. [83663]

Mr. McCartney: The National Audit Office report entitled XTackling pensioner poverty: Encouraging take-up of entitlements", recognises the good progress the Department has made in helping pensioners to take up their entitlements. The Government are committed to tackling pensioner poverty.

We have already made substantial progress in taking forward the NAO recommendations, and welcome the contribution the NAO have made to informing the on-going development of take-up strategies and the Pension Service more generally. Our strategies focus on overcoming the barriers to take up and one of our key mechanisms for driving take up is the Pension Service, a new customer focused organisation dedicated to the needs of pensioners. This provides a major opportunity to further enhance the quality of our customer service by actively promoting take up. In addition to processing pension entitlements, staff will be trained to identify possible entitlement to other benefits such as housing benefit and attendance allowance. Local service staff in particular will have a significant role in encouraging take up in local communities, and work in partnership with organisations that deal with older people, as the NAO proposes.

We have introduced a range of initiatives designed to encourage take up activity among pensioners: for the minimum income guarantee (MIG) we have undertaken a national advertising campaign, which resulted in almost an additional 140,000 claims with an average gain of £20 per week; reduced the claim form from 40 to 10 pages; introduced a MIG specific leaflet, and we are identifying potential beneficiaries through key events, such as claiming retirement pension.

A key priority, for both Government and the Pension Service is the successful take up of the new pension credit which will enhance and replace the MIG. It has been specifically designed to be easy for pensioners to claim and to be less intrusive. The weekly means test will be abolished for the over 65s and be replaced by a

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statement of their circumstances every five years. Capital rules will be relaxed and the upper capital limit abolished.

In addition we have taken this opportunity to align the eligibility rules for housing benefit and council tax benefit with pension credit. DWP staff can now verify information on behalf of the local authority and we will be introducing legislation shortly that will enable local authority staff to do the same for DWP. This means pensioners will in time only need to report their changes in circumstances to one organisation (unless tenancy or dependant related). We are also removing the need for pensioners to re-claim housing benefit every 12 months. We will cut out duplicate claim forms so from April 2003, it will be necessary to complete just one housing and council tax benefit form. These changes are a significant step to simplifying the process and we are examining the scope for introducing further simplifications over the next few years.

Our take up plan for pension credit is extensive and makes use of a range of channels. We will transfer existing MIG recipients to pension credit, ready for payments to be made from October 2003; write to all pensioners not already receiving MIG by June 2004 to alert them to possible pension credit entitlement, supported by a national publicity campaign; work with local partners to help support the communications to pensioners, and tailor marketing and communications activity accordingly. We are setting a demanding PSA target to be paying pension credit to at least 3 million pensioner households by 2006.

With attendance allowance and disability living allowance (AA/DLA), we are trialling new claim forms to significantly improve the way claims are made. Both claim forms were reduced from 44 pages to 34 in 2001 and we are currently trialling a shorter attendance allowance 16 page form. We are also developing a new claiming process for DLA for working age customers. First tests of the new claim pack started on 26 November. The claim form will be personalised and be the minimum size necessary for that individual's needs. If successful this approach will be extended to pensioners.

We have accepted the NAO's recommendations for making further progress. This demonstrates the importance that the Department attaches to tackling pensioner poverty.

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Adult Disadvantage

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will re-calculate the figures in the table in the answer of 27 June 2002, Official Report, column 1050W, assuming (a) that the fund remains in equities until the annuity is purchased and including also figures assuming retirement on 31 December 2001 and 30 September 2002, (b) retirement on (i) 31 December 2001 and (ii) 30 September 2002 and (c) that the fund remains in equities until five years before the annuity is purchased when half is satisfied into gilts and the remainder remains in equities until retirement, including figures assuming retirement on 31 December 2001 and 30 September 2002. [83135]

Mr. McCartney: The available information, is in the tables. Table 2, includes the data underlying the graph on page 19 of 'Modernising Annuities' published by Inland Revenue and the Department for Work and Pensions in February 2001.

It is not possible to provide information, where the date of retirement is after December 2001. This is due to data and model restrictions.

Although a stylised model, it is the data in the second table that we believe best characterises the investment strategy of many pension funds.

Investors will also be interested in expected pension income throughout their retirement and not just the income in the first year. The information does not give an indication of how this first figure may have increased for successive cohorts of pensioners due to increased life expectancy.

The following assumptions have been made.


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