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26 Mar 2003 : Column 288W—continued

Modern Apprenticeships

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to modify the age cap on modern apprenticeships. [104094]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Modern Apprentices aged between 16 and 24 are eligible for LSC funding support. The Government is considering the case for removing the age cap on MA funding and opening Advanced Modern Apprenticeships to suitably qualified or experienced adults, in line with Modern Apprenticeship Advisory Committee recommendations. We currently support the Rail Skills Award pilot for adult apprentices in the rail industry, and the LSC has local flexibility to fund some apprenticeship training for adults.

We will decide on the way ahead in the light of early operating experience in Wales and Scotland, where the age cap has already been lifted selectively, together with evaluation of current activity in England, and the availability of resources.

WORK AND PENSIONS

Home Responsibility Protection

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what safeguards are in place to ensure that people whose National Insurance contributions are interrupted receive information about home responsibility protection; and what estimate he has made of the level of take-up of home responsibility protection among eligible carers and parents. [102605]

Malcolm Wicks: People claiming Child Benefit are given full information about Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP) which includes advice as to whom in a couple should be the payee where HRP would be beneficial. However, the award of HRP for Child Benefit payees caring for a child under 16 is automatic and therefore the take-up for those entitled to HRP via this route will be 100 per cent. Most people caring for a severely disabled person will receive Invalid Care Allowance (ICA). People getting ICA will be credited with National Insurance contributions so they will not need HRP. Where ICA is not appropriate, or the carer decides not to claim it, various leaflets, including the PM9, specifically designed for carers, does give information about claiming HRP. Where the carer is receiving Income Support for a full tax year and is not required to register for work because of their caring activities, HRP will be available automatically. However, it is not possible to identify and provide specific information to people who give up work to care for a disabled person and who do not make any claims to benefit or inquiries about protection of their state pension, but the Department publicises the availability of HRP. From April, HRP will also be available to registered foster carers who do not currently get HRP by virtue of caring for a child of their own under 16.

Household Income

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what percentage of children lived in households with less than median income in each year from 1975–76 to 2002–03 in (a) numerical and (b) percentage terms; and if he will make a statement. [95582]

Malcolm Wicks: Such information as is available is provided in the tables.

Numbers and risk of falling below median income for children in households, including the self-employed
Million

Before housing costsAfter housing costs
PercentageNumberPercentageNumber
19795960
19816162
19875960
1988–895861
1990–916163
1991–925961
1991–925961
1992–935961
1993–946062
1994–95597.5617.8
1995–96597.5617.8
1996–97607.8628.1
1997–98617.8638.0
1998–99617.8638.0
1999–2000607.8628.0
2000–01597.6627.9

Notes:

1. All figures are estimates and are taken from the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) series. From 1979 to 1993–94 data are derived from the Family Expenditure Survey: single years for 1979, 1981 and 1987, two calendar years combined for 1988–89, 1990–91,1991–92 and 1992–93 and two financial years combined for 1993–94; results are for the United Kingdom. From 1994–05 to 2000–01, data are derived from the Family Resources Survey and represents single financial years. The Family Resources Survey does not include Northern Ireland, and the latest year for which data is available is 2000–01.

2. Numbers are in millions. Estimates of numbers from the Family Expenditure Survey are not considered sufficiently reliable to be presented here.

3. The estimates are sample counts, which have been adjusted for non-response using multipurpose grossing factors that, in the case of the Family Resources Survey, control for tenure, Council Tax band and a number of other variables. Estimates are subject to both sampling error and to variability in non-response. The income measure used is weekly net (disposable) equivalised household income (that is to say income that is adjusted to reflect the composition of the household).

4. The estimates are presented on both a Before Housing Costs (BHC) and an After Housing Costs (AHC) basis in line with HBAI conventions. Figures are provided including the self-employed.


26 Mar 2003 : Column 289W

Post Office Card Accounts

Sir Robert Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) of 16 January 2003, Official Report, column 806, if he will place in the Library a copy of the script used by helpline staff when people wish to open a Post Office card account. [100254]

Malcolm Wicks: The information has been placed in the Library.

Benefit Payment

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received from organisations representing blind and partially sighted people about the accessibility of PIN Pads used to withdraw benefits in cash in post offices; and if he will make a statement. [104816]

Malcolm Wicks: There is no question of blind, partially sighted or disabled people not being able to access their money after the move to Direct Payment. We are committed to ensuring that all people have reasonable access to their benefits and pensions and there will be a number of options available.

My Officials regularly meet with a number of representatives from Specific Interest Groups, including the RNIB, RNID and Disability Alliance to discuss all issues surrounding Direct Payment. We are aware of the concerns that have been raised with the Post Office about the design and accessibility of the post offices' PIN pads.

26 Mar 2003 : Column 290W

The Post Office has agreed that they need to make the PIN pad more accessible and user friendly. They will also be looking at other ways of accessing the Post Office card account that does not involve using a PIN pad. The Post Office are taking action to address the concerns raised and have invited RNIB and other disability groups to work with them. It is clear these issues have been recognised by Post Office Ltd. and are being taken seriously.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many benefit recipients who have been sent letters asking them how they wish to receive benefits following the switch to automated credit transfer have opted for payment by (a) an existing account, (b) a Post Office card account, (c) a basic bank account and (d) the exceptions service; [104579]

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

Information that is available shows that as at 7 March 2003 1,369,229 customer invitation letters had been issued. This is made up of 1,236,473 Child Benefit customers, 107,790 Veterans Agency customers and 24,966 Pensions customers. From the invitation letters issued over 545,000 customers have responded to our letters and opted for payment into a bank or building society account and over 106,000 customers have responded with a request for a Post Office card account.

Bereavement Payments

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many appeals relating to bereavement (a) allowance and (b) payments have been made in each month since the allowance was introduced; how many such appeals were in respect of claims made outside the time limit; and how many such appeals were successful. [88469]

Malcolm Wicks: The available information is in the table. Information in the format requested could be obtained only by a clerical examination of all cases which would incur disproportionate cost.

Appeals found in favour of the appellant at hearing for bereavement and widows benefits(14)

Received by the Appeals ServiceCleared at hearing(15)Found in favour
April 2001555010
May 2001606015
June 200170505
July 200155455
August 200175405
September 200175405
October 200185655
November 200160505
December 200145350
January 200270405
February 2002705510
March 2002604510
April 200270455
May 2002905510
June 200265255
July 2002906510
August 2002756010
September 200265455
October 2002904510
November 20021155510

Notes:

1. All figures are subject to change as more up to date data becomes available.

2. Some appeals will be cleared without a hearing by an appeal tribunal.

3. Figures are rounded to the nearest five.

4. Figures are for all "bereavement/widow's benefits" and cannot be split into various components. Therefore figures will include Widow's Benefit appeals.

Source:

100 per cent download of the Generic Appeals Processing System.


26 Mar 2003 : Column 291W

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) pursuant to his answer of 13 January 2003, Official Report, column 365W, what the total (a) annual and (b) monthly expenditure by his Department and its predecessor on (i) bereavement allowance, (ii) bereavement payments and (iii) widowed parent's allowance has been since the introduction of bereavement benefit in April 2002; and if he will make a statement; [91612]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is published in the Department Report, a copy of which is available in the Library.


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