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Child Support

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) whether the Child Support Agency is able to make deduction from earnings orders against liable persons where their address is not known but their employer is known; and in how many cases this has been done; [109888]

Malcolm Wicks: To make a deductions from earnings order the Child Support Agency needs only to know the name and address of the employer which must be registered in the UK; not necessarily based in the UK. Before the Deductions from Earnings Order is made the non-resident parent must be notified of his child support maintenance liability and any arrears. This may be done via his employer, for example if no home address is known. The non-resident parent must also be notified by his employer of the amounts to be deducted from earnings.

We do not have information available to identify such cases. There are around 9,000 non-resident parents with a deductions from earnings order for whom the agency does not hold a valid postcode, these will include cases where the non-resident parent lives abroad.

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Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what procedures are in place to claim child support from liable persons not resident in the United Kingdom; and in how many cases these have been applied. [109890]

Malcolm Wicks : A non-resident parent who is not habitually resident in the United Kingdom but works for a company whose payroll is based in the UK may be liable for child support under the Child Support Act 1991. Wholly reliable information is not available; the best estimate is that in 2002–03 the Child Support Agency was able take such action in fewer than 200 cases. In other cases child maintenance can be applied for through the relevant courts in the country where the non-resident parent resides.

Housing payments

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of local authorities spent their total allocation for Discretionary Housing Payments in 2001–02; how many claimants applied for assistance; how many were awarded DHPs; and what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the scheme. [105970]

Malcolm Wicks: Discretionary Housing Payments replaced exceptional hardship and exceptional circumstance payments from 2 July 2001. The scheme is funded in part by a central Government contribution to each local authority and any unspent contribution is returnable. Authorities may also spend more than the Government contribution, up to an overall limit.

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406 local authorities provided expenditure figures for the period 2 July 2001 to 31 March 2002, of which 3.9 per cent. spent their total Government contribution or more. Figures are not collected centrally on the number of people who apply for or receive Discretionary Housing Payments. However, statistical returns from 404 authorities show that a total of 20,563 awards were made between 2 July 2001 and 31 March 2002 1 .

We have commissioned the University of Birmingham to carry out a research project on how the Discretionary Housing Payment arrangements are operating. This will help us to determine a more effective mechanism of setting and distributing the Government's contribution to Discretionary Housing Payments for future years. The project is expected to report its findings later this year.

Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the expected saving to public funds from the private finance initiative schemes due to become operational in 2003. [105727]

Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, on 10 April 2003, Official Report, column 400W.

Regions White Paper

Joyce Quin: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress his Department has made towards the goal set out in the White Paper, Your Region, Your Choice, of (a) ensuring that regional awareness and devolution feature strongly in Civil Service training and development, (b) increasing the mobility of civil servants between headquarters offices, regional offices and the Government Offices and (c) encouraging interchange between the Civil Service and organisations in the regions. [108579]

Maria Eagle: Staff within The Department are expected to be knowledgeable about the requirements and features of local labour markets, social trends and patterns and any legislative or funding issues which affect their region. Managers at various levels in our regional and district structure frequently obtain briefings, statistics concerning local labour market and other social trends. In addition, Policy makers and other Senior Managers are expected to maintain very close links and nurture relationships with Regional Development Agencies and other Government bodies and NGOs. This helps supplement knowledge gained from other sources, such as briefing information.

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Arrangements have been developed, as part of the programme of work to establish the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), to facilitate movement of staff between the component businesses of DWP. These Regional Change Implementation Programme Executive (RECIPE) arrangements ensure that migration of staff between and within businesses is effectively managed to avoid surpluses and shortfalls of staff, including movement of staff between headquarters and regional offices. RECIPE groups also liaise with other government departments and the Government Office in their region to ensure, for example, a coordinated approach to recruitment, and to facilitate inter-departmental moves.

DWP is an outward facing department and encourages its staff to. undertake interchange with a wide range of organisations, in particular those at a regional and local level, many of whom are our partners in the delivery of our business. Centrally held interchange records do not provide detailed breakdowns of all interchange activity and records of activity undertaken during 2002–03 are still to be collated from the regions and businesses. There have been positive moves undertaken by the DWP central Interchange Team to work with Government Offices on encouraging interchange between this department and the regions. The team has attended Interchange events in Government Office—North East and in London. In addition, the team has presented DWP Interchange proposals at the Heads of Personnel Forum in GO South West. Very recently the team has engaged with GO North East Staffing Forum to encourage interchange between our department and civil service departments in the region. Finally the DWP central team has developed strong working relationships in establishing opportunities for interchange with a number of government departments including: the Inland Revenue, Home Office and Cabinet Office.

Third Age Service

Jim Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the progress his Department has made in respect of the Third Age Service. [108881]

Maria Eagle: The Government aims to deliver the Manifesto commitment to improve services for older people by better integrating health, housing, benefits and social care into a "third age service". To this end we are now managing the 6 Care Direct pilots in the South West to identify good working practices and incorporate them into improved local services.

The Department has also been making considerable progress in working with other service providers e.g. Department of Health, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Local Authorities and the Voluntary Sector (Age Concern, RNIB, NACAB), assessing current services and identifying opportunities for integration. Partnership working is being developed between The Pension Service, Local Authorities with social care responsibilities, Primary Care Trusts and the Voluntary Sector.

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We are also looking at other opportunities beyond the Care Direct pilots to deliver services which can offer face to face contact for customers unable to use the telephone. These will build on existing initiatives offering a single point of contact through local surgeries or home visit.

Winter Fuel Allowance

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many appeals against decisions on the payment of winter fuel allowance have been heard in each financial year since its inception; how many appeals have been upheld; and what the breakdown was of reasons for granting the appeals. [107162]

Maria Eagle: Information on the number of appeals is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is given in the table.

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Appeals for winter Number heardNumber upheld


Winter Fuel Payment Centre records

No appeals have yet been held for this winter (2002–03) but there are two awaiting allocation of dates for a tribunal hearing.

The 29 appeals which were allowed concerned late claims. The tribunals' reasons varied according to the circumstances of the individual case but generally they found, on the evidence presented and in accordance with their interpretation of the relevant regulations, that some of the claims were made on time and others should have been paid automatically.