Previous Section Index Home Page

17 Dec 2002 : Column 772W—continued

New Deal

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of the

17 Dec 2002 : Column 773W

New Deal starts in his Department and its agencies have resulted in sustained, unsubsidised employment; and if he will make a statement. [85970]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 9 December 2002]: This information is not available for all of the Department and its agencies. However, in the former Employment Service and Jobcentre Plus 1 , up to October 2002, 825 people have been taken on under the New Deal for Young People and New Deal 25 plus. 302 (37 per cent.) of these people have gained permanent employment with Jobcentre Plus and 98 (12 per cent.) have left to take up employment elsewhere. A further 200 (24 per cent.) people are still employed in Jobcentre Plus on the New Deal programme.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many persons received new deal photocards between May 1998 and October 2002; how many new deal participants were eligible to receive such cards during this period; what assessment he has made of the reasons for the difference in these figures; and if he will make a statement. [85973]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 9 December 2002]: On 6 November, 2002 we announced the extension of half price rail fares to up to 125,000 more people on three additional new deal programmes, making it cheaper for them to get to job interviews and cheaper to get to work in the first few months of employment.

The new deal reduced rail fare scheme has been in existence in England and Wales since May 1998 and, to the end of August 2002 1 , Jobcentre Plus has issued 127,254 photocards. During the period 24 May 1998 to 31 August 2002, a total of 1,038,623 new deal participants were eligible to use the card.

The reduced rail fare scheme is brought to the attention of all new deal participants at the initial interview with their personal adviser. Where transport is not considered to be a barrier to the client finding work or training, they may not take up the offer. Jobcentre Plus is currently working to further increase awareness of the scheme through targeted publicity, and expect to see a marked increase in take-up as a result.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many of those leaving the new deal for the long-term unemployed left the new deal for unsubsidised sustained jobs; and how many did not return to claim jobseeker's allowance within (a) 26 weeks and (b) one year. [85971]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 9 December 2002]: Up to the end of September 2002, 80,640 new deal 25 plus leavers had gained unsubsidised sustained jobs. Of these, 64,780 did not return to claim jobseeker's allowance within 26 weeks, and 57,090 had not re-claimed the benefit within one year after leaving the new deal.

17 Dec 2002 : Column 774W


Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to increase the take-up rate of means-tested provision for pensioners. [86283]

Mr. McCartney: We have introduced a range of initiatives designed to encourage pensioners to take up their entitlements. For the minimum income guarantee (MIG) we have undertaken a national advertising campaign, which resulted in almost 140,000 successful claims, with an average gain of #20 per week. We have also reduced the MIG claim form from 40 to 10 pages, introduced a MIG specific leaflet, and we are identifying potential beneficiaries through key events, such as claiming state 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 statement of their circumstances every 5 years. Capital rules will be relaxed and the upper capital limit abolished.

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.

The Pension Service pension centres are backed up by local services delivered in partnership with local authorities and voluntary sector organisations provided in locations accessible to pensioners. There will be appointment surgeries and, in time, drop-in surgeries to meet pensioners in places where they visit.

Outreach activity will be an important part of local service work. Staff will be meeting people in partner and other locations accessible to customers offering general advice and guidance and taking part in benefit take-up initiatives.

We are planning to introduce a network of Internet access points, telephone points and hard copy information (displaying leaflets, posters, claim forms and other materials) points based in Government and partner locations: and a benefits information service for partners, care workers, volunteers etc. to raise awareness of The Pension Service, pensioner entitlements and how to apply for them.

We have also set up the Partnerships Against Poverty group, and are undertaking negotiations with partners at a national level to agree the scope for partnership working.

All of the above demonstrate the importance that my Department attaches to encouraging pensioners to take up their entitlements.

17 Dec 2002 : Column 775W

Post Office Card Account

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the number of stages in the process of setting up a Post Office customer card account. [87106]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 16 December 2002]: The Department for Work and Pensions will be writing to customers over the next two years when it is their turn to change to Direct Payment into an account. Customers will be provided with information (including letters and leaflets) which clearly sets out the different types of accounts available, so that they can choose the account which best meets their needs and circumstances.

Customers who wish to open a post office card account will need to contact the Department to discuss their account options with an adviser. They will then be issued with a personal invitation document. This document should then be taken to a post office branch where the customer will be given a post office card account application form to complete.

Overall the process of applying for a post office card account is straightforward and no more onerous than that of applying for a basic (or other) bank account.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 21 November, to the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb), Official Report, column 282W, on SERPS, if he will place examples of (a) the original letter, (b) the follow-up estimate letter and (c) the most recent letter in the Library. [86688]

Mr. McCartney: The original letter and the follow up estimate were placed in the Library on 11 March 2002. The most recent letter will be placed in the Library after it has been approved by the Secretary of State.

Social Security Fraud Act

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have had their benefit reduced because they have been convicted of benefit fraud for a second time under the terms of the Social Security Fraud Act 2001. [86734]

Malcolm Wicks: The 'two-strikes' provision of the Social Security Fraud Act 2001 came into force from 1 April 2002. The provision applies to people who are convicted of benefit fraud on two separate occasions after 1 April 2002; it cannot be applied retrospectively. No individuals so far have had their benefit reduced under this provision.

Stakeholder Pensions

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his oral statement of 25 November, Official Report, column 12, on stakeholder pensions, if he

17 Dec 2002 : Column 776W

will set out the basis for his estimate that more than one million people who did not have a pension 18 months ago have one now. [84484]

Mr. McCartney [holding answer 2 December 2002]: There has been an increase in the number of people who save for their retirement through private pensions since the introduction of stakeholder pensions. Although not all stakeholder pension sales will be to new pension savers, it is widely acknowledged that stakeholder pensions have had a beneficial effect on the provision of pensions more generally. For example, as an alternative to designating a stakeholder pension scheme employers have broadened access to their occupational pension schemes to the whole of the workforce, or have opened group personal pension schemes to which they contribute. What is clear is that for a very large number of people stakeholder pensions have provided a route into pension provision that they had never had before.

Next Section Index Home Page