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Bereavement Benefits

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) widows and (b) widowers have been refused benefit on the grounds of being late claimants in each year from 1997 to 2002. [145979]

Mr. Pond: The information is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Bereavement Benefits were introduced on 9 April 2001, and for the first time extended support to both widows and widowers following the death of a spouse. These new benefits concentrate the help available where it is most needed; on immediate needs and on families with children.

In April 2003 we extended the time limit for claiming Bereavement Payment to 12 months aligning it with the period over which a person can receive Bereavement Allowance.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by what means couples are made aware of the rules relating to bereavement benefits; and if he will make a statement. [146206]

Mr. Pond: Information is available from local Jobcentre Plus and Social Security offices, and the Department for Work and Pensions website gives information about Bereavement Benefits together with leaflets and claim forms for downloading. A fully revised version of leaflet NP45 "A guide to Bereavement Benefit" for professional advisers and members of the public was published in May this year. Leaflets D49 "What to do after a death in England and Wales" and D49S "What to do after a death in Scotland" are reviewed and revised as necessary annually.

In addition, we have been working with funeral directors, Registrars and voluntary groups such as Cruse, National Association of Widows and Citizens Advice Bureaux who may be contacted by bereaved people.

We have worked with Registrars to amend the social security form for notifying the Department of a death (BD8) to draw greater attention to the fact that it can be used to initiate a claim for bereavement benefits, this went to print in April 2003 and has been in use by Registrars since then. Within the last year we have also arranged for Funeral Directors to be able to obtain Bereavement Benefit claim packs so that they can be given directly to bereaved people.

We keep under review the way that information is made available about bereavement benefits so that bereaved people, at this very difficult time in their lives, know about their potential right to benefit and can act on it at the right time.

Child Support Agency

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of parents who are waiting for their Child Support Agency cases to

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be transferred from the old to the new scheme will pay (a) increased and (b) decreased payments under the new scheme. [140881]

Mr. Pond: Of those non-resident parents who are earning an income, about 60 per cent. will have a reduced maintenance liability and about 40 per cent. will have an increased liability.

Of those non-resident parents on benefit, about 60 per cent. will have an increased liability for maintenance. (Currently, 75 per cent. of non-resident parents on benefit are treated as having no liability; under the new scheme we expect them to pay a flat rate of £5 to the parent with care).

This data is based on an analysis carried out in 2001, and reflects the position had all cases converted to the new scheme on the day of the scan. Since then, average income levels of non-resident parents have increased, which would reduce the fall in the level of maintenance liabilities.

There are around a million live and assessed old scheme cases. Of those in work, we expect that a majority will have a reduced liability.

Disability Discrimination Bill

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the draft Disability Discrimination Bill. [146796]

Maria Eagle: We are determined to end the marginalisation and exclusion of disabled people from all walks of life—which is the lot of too many of our disabled fellow citizens today.

The draft Disability Discrimination Bill—along with other changes to the law which we are implementing, will represent, when we achieve its passage, a great progressive social advance—one which I hope will be supported by everyone in this House.

Disabled People

Jim Sheridan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress he has made in enabling disabled people to play a full and active role in society. [146801]

Maria Eagle: Good progress. For example we have legislated to extend the provisions of the DDA to education.

There has been a narrowing of the gap between the employment levels of disabled people and non-disabled people.

But more needs to be done.

In October we are implementing new obligations on service providers to remove, alter or avoid physical features which prevent disabled people accessing services. (Among others this will apply to MPs)

We are also extending the employment provisions of the DDA to more occupations and to almost all employers of whatever size. This will bring one million small employers and seven million more jobs into the protection of the Act.

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Income-related Benefits

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to publish estimates of take-up of income-related benefits for 2001–02. [145982]

Mr. Pond: Estimates of take-up of income-related benefits in 2001–02 will be released in February. The publication month has been pre-announced in Updates—the National Statistics diary of statistical releases. The precise date will be pre-announced through Updates.

Justices of the Peace

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on his Department's plans to amend the terms and conditions of employees of the Department who serve as justices of the peace. [145382]

Maria Eagle [holding answer 7 January 2004]: The department's pay offer to its staff for 2003 for negotiation with its trade unions included proposals on performance bonus payments to be paid in addition to consolidated, pensionable pay. Under these proposals, the bonus payable would be performance related and take account of the total contribution made. It was envisaged it would be reduced proportionately for periods of absence beyond annual, public and privilege leave and other absences of five days or fewer. This provision was included as part of the effort to improve levels of attendance within the department. It could have had a limited effect on the bonus earnable by those, including justices of the peace, who were granted special leave by the department.

The department has decided that the new attendance condition will not form part of the 2003 pay offer. Any future change of this kind would be a matter for negotiation with the department's unions.

New Deal

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what (a) percentage and (b) value of New Deal contracts are delivered by (i) Jobcentre Plus, (ii) private companies and (iii) voluntary organisations; [144598]

Mr. Browne: All contracts to deliver New Deal are awarded to external providers, from the private and not for profit sectors. Some New Deal advisory services are delivered by Jobcentre Plus, but these are not governed by a contractual process.

In 2002–03, total New Deal expenditure by Jobcentre Plus was approximately £812 1 million; of this, expenditure on New Deal contracts with the private and not for profit sectors amounted to £337 million, approximately 42 per cent. of the total. The remainder of the expenditure was on services delivered by Jobcentre Plus (£247 million) and on allowances paid to New Deal customers (£180 million) and other financial incentives (£48 million).

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Jobcentre Plus contracts out New Deal provision to over 1,000 external providers and the details of these providers are held at regional and district level. Therefore, listing separately the private companies and voluntary organisations that have contracts to deliver New Deal support could be done only at a disproportionate cost.

Benefits and Pensions Payment

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what procedures his Department will put in place to pay benefits and pensions from 2005 to clients who by that time have not nominated a bank or Post Office Card Account to receive their payments and whose order books have expired; [147323]

Mr. Pond: We have always recognised there will be some people, such as those who cannot open or manage any sort of account, and some immediate payments, such as Crisis Loans, that we cannot pay by Direct Payment. We are therefore designing an exceptions method of payment to meet the needs of people in these circumstances. We are in the process of discussing the design of the exceptions method of payment with the representative bodies most directly affected to design a secure and efficient method of payment which meets people's needs.

Until the exception method of payment is in place, customers who choose not to convert to Direct Payment will be able to retain their Order Book. But, they will not be able to keep it indefinitely as Order Books are being phased out.

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