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20 Mar 2003 : Column 915W—continued

Benefit Payment

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to publish the Office of Government Commerce gateway review into the transfer of benefit payments to automated credit transfer; [91290]

Malcolm Wicks: The Office of Government Commerce issued the results of the April 2002 review into the transfer of benefit payments to payment direct into bank and building society accounts to the Department in May 2002.

The follow-up gateway review is provisionally scheduled for April 2003, one year after the original review, the results of which will again be issued to the Department.

Further dissemination of the review is subject to the Code of Practice on Access to Official Information.

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Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that financial advice is available to those persuaded to open bank accounts for the first time by the changes in benefit and pension distribution through the Post Office. [101438]

Malcolm Wicks: Government Departments and the Post Office will provide customers with full factual information about their banking options but are not qualified to and must not advise customers on which account is most suitable. It is for customers to choose which account best meets their needs and circumstances. Customers who are having difficulty deciding which account is best for them can seek advice from independent organisations.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit claimants have migrated from direct payment to automated credit transfer in each month since January 2002, broken down into recipients of each major benefit. [102985]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested.

Such information, as is available on the number of accounts that have migrated from paper based methods of payment to direct payment into a bank or building society account in each month since January 2002, is shown in the following table.

Benefit15 June to13 July 200214 July to10 August 200211 August to7 September 20028 September to5 October 20026 October to2 November 2002
Jobseekers Allowance3,1443,2203,3433,2463,549
Income Support6,9186,7725,9386,6116,801
Incapacity Benefit2,8512,0323,514
Severe Disablement415302459
Allowance Industrial Injuries47471541531
Widows Benefit273195321
Bereavement Benefit(—473054
Disability Living Allowance7,8702,7403,3433,7044,136
Attendance Allowance770442479541
Invalid Care Allowance1,1081,080
Retirement Pension12,79910,03216,253
Minimum Income Guarantee3,2363,0892,7832,7603,014
Child Benefit7,6599,2967,1467,3579,373
War Pensions1,427
Total GB Benefit Accounts31,36242,31936,05724,69849,626

Benefit3 November to30 November 20021 December to28 December 200229 December 2002 to 25 January 200326 January to22 February 2003
Jobseekers Allowance3,8044,1493,7055,083
Income Support7,7155,0876,2159,186
Incapacity Benefit3,6653,920
Severe Disablement602591
Allowance Industrial Injuries511462412675
Widows Benefit309292
Bereavement Benefit4560
Disability Living Allowance3,9642,7203,0475,064
Attendance Allowance495419408612
Invalid Care Allowance1,173
Retirement Pension18,75420,934
Minimum Income Guarantee3,4552,5132,9294,403
Child Benefit7,9069,5724,7258,081
War Pensions2,154929
Total GB Benefit Accounts27,85050,45121,44161,003

The figures compare information available at one date to the next, and are only available from 15 June 2002.

Some benefit data are received less frequently than four weekly.

Where there are no figures, these will be included in the next period for which figures are shown, as the calculation cannot be done until the data is received.

People in receipt of more than one benefit may have those benefits combined to a single benefit account. Figures are in terms of these accounts.


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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions under what circumstances follow-up phone calls are made by his Department to benefit recipients who opt not to receive payment by automated credit transfer into a bank account; how many such calls have so far been made; how many individuals have opted for ACT in response to such calls; how many staff are employed making calls, and at what cost to his Department; and if he will make a statement. [104001]

Malcolm Wicks: We are not currently re-contacting customers who have received letters inviting them to move to direct payment and have responded to opt not to be paid this way. We are, however, following up the invitation letters where customers have not responded. In some cases this is by a follow-up telephone call as part of the work undertaken by the Direct Payment Centre. This centre currently employs around 190 staff. Up until 17 March, 122,704 follow up calls have been made.

The Department set up the Direct Payment Centre to handle the conversion to direct payment. This is a managed service that deals with telephone calls, the distribution of invitation letters and the collation of information when customers details are received. We can therefore not differentiate between these functions to provide costings.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 28 February 2003, Official Report, columns 761–62W, if he will place in the Library copies of information sent from his Department to benefit recipients. [101289]

Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) on 6 November 2003, Official Report, column 406W. The latest version of the information will be issued from 1 April and will be placed in the Library thereafter.

Benefit Payment

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people collect benefits from post offices in (a) Jarrow constituency, (b) South Tyneside, (c) the North East and (d) the UK. [103559]

Malcolm Wicks: Information available on the number of people that receive benefits by a method of payment collectable from post offices as at 25 January 2003 is in the table. Included in these figures are customers paid by Girocheque. Girocheques are encashable either at a post office or they can be paid into a bank or building society account.

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. There are no data available on the number of benefit claims collected in this way.

Total benefit recipientsPayable at post offices
Jarrow constituency35,91126,511
South Tyneside68,88651,931
North East1,073,900747,964
Great Britain21,641,05112,456,733

1. People in receipt of more than one benefit may have those benefits combined to a single benefit account. Figures are in terms of these accounts.

2. Figures for Great Britain are for England, Scotland and Wales. Information for Northern Ireland is a matter for the Northern Ireland Office.

3. The 'Payable at post offices' column represents customers who have their benefit paid either entirely by paper method, or at least one of their benefits is by paper if they are receiving a combination of benefits and some are being paid direct.


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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what steps he has taken to inform benefit claimants to be affected by the change in payment method about the steps needed to register for a post office card account; [103510]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department is mailing customers affected individually to inform them of the move to Direct Payment. This activity began in October 2002 with mailings to Child Benefit and War Pension customers. In addition to this we are planning to run national and regional press advertising this month and plan further advertising from May onwards. This aims to educate our customers about what is changing, the options they have and the action they should take. It will be up to the individual to decide what the best option for their circumstances will be.

It has always been recognised that there will be a small number of people who will not be able to be paid directly into an account. We are currently exploring alternative ways in which these customers could receive their money.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit claimants in (a) each region and (b) each local authority have opted to collect their benefit payments using (i) post office card accounts, (ii) basic bank accounts and (c) current bank accounts. [103512]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested.

Information that is available shows that as at 28 February 2003, over 447,226 customers have responded to our letters and opted for payment into a bank or building society account. This is made up of 393,847 child benefit customers, 51,806 veterans agency customers and 1,573 pensions customers.

As at 28 February 2003, 1,218,916 customer invitation letters have been issued. From the invitation letters issued 90,711 customers have responded with a request for a Post Office card account.

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in (a) Essex and (b) the West Chelmsford constituency collect benefits from Post Offices. [103124]

Malcolm Wicks: Information available on pensioners as at 25 January 2003 in (a) Essex and (b) West Chelmsford constituency receiving their benefits by a method of payment collectable at Post Office is shown in the following table. Included in these figures are

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customers paid by Girocheque. Girocheques are encashable either at a post office or they can be paid into a bank or building society account.

Number
Essex122,192
West Chelmsford7,621

Some customers who are paid direct into an account can also collect their benefit in cash at Post Offices through the network banking arrangements at the Post Office. There is no data available on the number of benefit claims collected this way.


Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in (a) Essex and (b) the West Chelmsford constituency have migrated from over the counter benefit payments to direct bank transfers in each of the last three years for which figures are available. [103125]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested.

Such information as is available on pensioners as at 25 January 2003 in (a) Essex and (b) West Chelmsford constituency, that have migrated to receiving at least one type of benefit, from payments collectable at post offices to payment into a bank or building society account, is shown in the table. The figures are a comparison between those of 25 January and the same records approximately 12 weeks earlier. Included in these figures are customers paid by Girocheque. Girocheques are encashable either at a post office, or they can be paid into a bank or building society account.

Number of pensioners
Essex1,317
West Chelmsford76

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. There is no data available on the number of benefit claims collected this way.


Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps have been taken to promote the use of (a) a Post Office card account, (b) a current account and (c) a basic account for receiving benefit payments following the introduction of ACT; and if he will make a statement. [103801]

Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) on 27 January 2003, Official Report, column 662W.


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