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10 Feb 2003 : Column 519W—continued

Benefit Payments (Post Offices)

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the number of benefit recipients that are being paid in cash at post offices. [93378]

Malcolm Wicks: Approximately 58 per cent. of claimants currently receive their benefit and pensions in cash at the post office and 42 per cent. are paid direct into a bank or building society account at the time of making the claim.

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit claims are collected each week in cash at post offices; and how many are collected (a) by the recipient and (b) by an agent. [92318]

Malcolm Wicks: The number of order book foils and girocheques cashed each week at post offices is approximately 12 million.

Some customers who are paid direct into an account can also collect their benefit in cash at post offices through network banking arrangements at the post office. However, there is no data available on the number of benefit claims collected in this way.

The information on the number of agents who collect benefit at post offices is only fully available for recipients of income support, jobseekers allowance and minimum income guarantee and this is provided in the table:

Income support, jobseekers allowance and minimum income guarantee records not paid direct into bank or building society accounts as at 28 December 2002

BenefitClaimant accounts with an agent recordedClaimant accounts without an agent recorded
Income Support44,2501,719,646
Jobseekers Allowance 1,581548,221
Minimum Income Guarantee(10)83,5681,293,659
Total129,3993,561,526

(10) Full figures are not available due to present transfers to Pension Centres.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 21 January 2003, Official Report, column 260W, on benefit payments, how many of the customers who opted for payment into a bank or building society account selected accounts that are accessible via post offices. [94032]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the form requested. The information we collect within the Department does not differentiate between basic bank accounts and current bank accounts therefore we cannot distinguish which account is available at the post office. However there are now network banking arrangements in place that allow more people than ever before to access their money at post offices.

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Direct Credit Scheme (Pensions)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions under what circumstances someone will be judged to be unable to manage an account under the new direct credit scheme for state pension payments; how long the assessment process will take to judge someone unable to manage an account under the direct credit scheme; what measures are in place to ensure the continuation of payments while an assessment of a person's ability to manage an account is carried out; and whether a recipient of the state pension will be subject to reassessment on the matter of ability to manage an account. [90650]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 16 January 2003]: Customers will be provided with information on the account options available as part of the move to direct payment. Customers will be able to consider these options and choose the account that best suits their needs and circumstances.

At present 85 per cent. of our customers (including 90 per cent. of pensioners) already have access to a suitable account for direct payment. We recognise that for some people a full bank account may not be suitable. If a customer feels unable to cope with one of these accounts a basic bank account or a post office card account may be a better option as they are very straightforward to operate.

A basic bank account will not normally have cheque book or overdraft facilities and a post office card account will only accept benefit, pension or tax credit payment into it and it has no other facilities such as overdrafts. Therefore there is no reason why the overwhelming majority should not be able to open an account that they can operate.

The Department understands that clearly there will be some customers, who, for a variety of reasons, cannot or will not open a current or basic bank account, and who cannot open a post office card account. To make these payments we are developing an exceptions service, which will be available at outlets including the Post Office.

Disability

Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what plans he has to extend (a) women's and (b) disabled rights to membership of private clubs. [96341]

Maria Eagle: On 22 January, my right hon. Friend announced that the draft Disability Bill that we intend to publish later this year would contain provisions to bring membership of larger private clubs within the Disability Discrimination Act and that we would consult widely on how and when the practical changes involved would take effect. The position of women in relation to membership of private clubs is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women.

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Hepatitis C (Compensation)

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on the exemption of the proposed compensation payments for hepatitis C sufferers in Scotland from rules on benefits clawback. [96336]

Malcolm Wicks: We are aware of the Scottish Executive's proposals to compensate people who have contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood products.

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Discussions about these proposals and their impact on the payment of social security benefits are ongoing. No conclusions have yet been reached.

Housing Benefit

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of housing benefit recipients in private accommodation in each English region are in local authority arranged temporary accommodation. [91689]

Malcolm Wicks: The available information for 2000–01 is in the table.

Local authority tenant boarders Private tenant boarders
Government office regionHousing benefit recipientsBy numberAs proportion of caseload(11) (%)By numberAs proportion of caseload(12)(%)
England3,268,00011,000 0.3438,0001.16
North East250,000(13)(13)2,000 0.8
North West534,0001,000 0.196,000 1.12
Yorkshire and the Humber356,000 2,000 0.56 4,0001.12
East Midlands241,000(13)(13)2,000 0.83
West Midlands360,000 (13)(13)4,000 1.11
East275,000(13)(13)3,000 1.09
London601,0006,0001.08,000 1.33
South East380,0001,0000.265,000 1.32
South West272,000(13)(13)5,000 1.84

(11) Local Authority tenant boarders are defined as people who have been placed in temporary accommodation by the authority and a charge for that accommodation is paid to the authority.

(12) Private tenant boarders are defined as people who pay a private landlord for temporary bed and breakfast or hostel accommodation.

(13) Signifies the data is negligible.

Notes:

1. The data refer to households claiming housing benefit, which may be a single person, a couple or a family. More than one benefit household can live in one property, for example two or more adults in a flat or house share arrangement.

2. Data for any non-responding authorities will have been estimated.

3. Figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.

4. Data are not collected separately on the number of people staying in private local authority arranged temporary accommodation that is not a board and lodge establishment.

5. Figures exclude housing benefit extended payment cases

Source:

Housing Benefit Management Information System Quarterly 100 per cent caseload

stock-count, averaged over May, August, November 2000 and February 2001


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost to the Exchequer of reducing the eligible rent of all housing benefit claimants by £10 per week and introducing a £10 per week housing credit for all recipients of the working tax credit who are either renters or homebuyers with a mortgage. [91548]

Malcolm Wicks: The estimate requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

NI Contributions

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the ages of the women who (a) revoked and (b) did not revoke their reduced rate National Insurance contribution elections during 1978–79. [90625]

Dawn Primarolo: I have been asked to reply.

The ages of the women who (a) revoked and (b) did not revoke their reduced rate National Insurance contribution elections would be available only for the year requested at disproportionate cost. Available estimates based on a 3 per cent. sample of the National Insurance Recording System (NIRS2) are in the table. However, the reduction in the numbers paying at the reduced rate will be due only in part to those actively revoking their election.

Thousand

Age during 1978–79tax yearRevoked election Continuing election
16 to 200.20.8
21 to 3027386
31 to 40721,242
41 to 50611,468
51 to 6042817
>606316
Total2084,230

In 1978–79 married women paying at the reduced rate made up some 45 per cent. of the total number of women paying National Insurance contributions. Latest published figures for 2000–01 indicate that this has fallen to around 1 per cent. It is estimated that the current number of married women paying at the reduced rate is around 80,000.

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