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14 Jan 2003 : Column 604W—continued

Pensioner Incomes (Mitcham and Morden)

Siobhain McDonagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what impact Government policy is having on the income of pensioners in Mitcham and Morden. [89834]

Mr. McCartney: This Government have done much to assist pensioners. The Government want all pensioners to have a decent and secure income in retirement and to share fairly in the rising prosperity of the country. The first priority has been to help the poorest pensioners.

From April 2002, the Government are spending an extra #6 billion a year in real terms on pensioners as a result of policies introduced since 1997. This includes #2½ billion more on the poorest third of pensioners. Three times more than an earnings link since 1998 would have given them.

The basic state pension is the foundation of income in retirement. The Government increased rates in April 2002 by #3 a week for single pensioners, to #75.50, and for couples by #4.80 a week, to #120.70. From April 2003, there will be further above inflation increases of #1.95 a week, to #77.45, and for couples by #3.10 a week to #123.80.

As at March 2002, around 13,100 people in Mitcham and Morden were in receipt of state pension.

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From April 2003, no pensioner will have to get by on less than #102.10 (#155.80 for married couples). Mitcham and Morden has approximately 2,500 people claiming the minimum income guarantee receiving on average approximately #57 per week compared to #32 per week in 1997.

Around half of all pensioner households will benefit from the new groundbreaking pension credit being introduced in October.

In addition, other initiatives have significantly helped pensioners. These include winter fuel payments (WFPs), which will continue to be paid to qualifying households at #200 a year throughout this Parliament. In winter 2001–02, there were approximately 14,300 recipients of a winter fuel payment in Mitcham and Morden.

Free TV licences are available for the over 75s, worth #104 a year. The WFPs and TV licences are non income-related and are tax free.

Post Office Card Account

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what action he is taking to encourage the take-up of post office card accounts; [90756]

Malcolm Wicks : I refer the hon. Member to the written answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham), on 17 December 2002, Official Report, column 604W.

Postcodes

Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what use his Department and its agencies make of postcode areas for (a) the collection and publication of data, (b) devising formulae for the distribution of grants and awards and (c) the delivery of services; and when such usages were last reviewed. [87741]

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Mr. McCartney: The Department makes limited use of postcodes to assist policy development and the delivery of services to our customers.

We do not publish any statistical information by postcode areas in their own right. However, it does use information based on postcodes as a building block to publish statistics on administrative or electoral districts, such as Government Office Regions or Parliamentary Constituencies. All of the department's National Statistics outputs are published on a regular basis and copies are placed in the Libraries of the Houses of Parliament.

Most of the grants and awards made by the Department are distributed on criteria devised at a national level. However, the award Cold Weather Payments is based on local conditions and does use postcodes to define eligible areas.

The delivery of services to our customers has been re-organised following the creation of the Department in 2001. In most cases, the departmental agencies are organised into regions and districts whose boundaries are aligned with Government Office Regions and one or more Local/Unitary Authorities.

Jobcentre Plus customers can access services through their nearest or most convenient Jobcentre Plus Office, Jobcentre or Social Security Office, regardless of their postcode. Postcodes are used to identify customers required to attend a work- focused meeting as the new integrated Jobcentre Plus service is introduced, in areas where ONE pilots operate and in some other parts of the office network.

The Pension Service will comprise of a network of 26 pension centres, supported by a national local service, dedicated to the needs of today's and tomorrow's pensioners. Customers can access services through an 0845 local rate telephone number. Each pension centre handles the work of a defined geographical area aligned to Government Office Regions.

Postcode listings used within the Department are updated each quarter. The use of postcodes to produce information, distribute grants and awards and deliver services in the most efficient manner possible is reviewed on a regular basis.