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13 Jan 2004 : Column 685W—continued


Benefit Payments (Pensioners)

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent estimate he has made of the amount of unclaimed benefits due to pensioners. [146748]

Malcolm Wicks: The latest estimates of the amount of unclaimed benefits for pensioners eligible for income-related benefits relate to financial year 2000–01. These cover Minimum Income Guarantee, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit and are available in the DWP report "Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-up in 2000–01". A copy of the publication is held in the Library. Statistics covering 2001–02 will be released in February.

No estimates are available of the amount of 'unclaimed' State Pension. This is because anyone eligible for a State Pension can choose to defer taking it, and then receive a higher amount once they begin claiming. Therefore, pension that is so far unclaimed may be being deliberately deferred.

Information relating to unclaimed disability benefits is not available.

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We are unable to provide any reliable estimate of the number of unclaimed Winter Fuel Payments because some people aged 60 or over are excluded, others choose not to claim and payments are based on household composition. However, most people are paid automatically.

Child Support Agency

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions further to the letter to the hon. Member for Wycombe of 18 December 2003, from Doug Smith, Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, for what reason it is not possible to provide information concerning anomalies, inaccuracies and incomplete data contained in records held by the Child Support Agency before the CSA's data migration strategy is finalised. [147062]

Mr. Pond: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mr. Doug Smith. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Doug Smith to Mr. Paul Goodman, dated 13 January 2004:

Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many sufferers from (a) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and (b) Multiple Sclerosis were awarded disability living allowance in the last five years; and what percentage of those applying that represented in each case. [146609]

Maria Eagle: The required information is in the following table.

Number of new awards each year to people whose main disabling condition is Multiple Sclerosis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Year endingAll new awardsNew awards where main disabling condition is Multiple SclerosisPercentage ofnew awardsNew awards where main disabling condition is Chronic Fatigue SyndromePercentage ofnew awards
31 August 1999218.
31 August 2000226.
31 August 2001250.
31 August 2002256.
31 August 2003262.


1. Figures are in thousands and rounded to the nearest hundred.

2. Total number of applications by disabling condition are unavailable.

3. In order to count 'sufferers', people with multiple awards during the year are counted only once.


IAD Information Centre, 5 per cent. sample.

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Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on his Department's policy on chronic fatigue syndrome in relation to benefits; [146633]

Maria Eagle: People with chronic fatigue syndrome are entitled to social security benefits if they meet the usual qualifying conditions for them. For Disability Living Allowance, entitlement depends on the effects that severe physical or mental disability have on a person's need for personal care and/or their ability to walk, and not on particular disabilities or diagnoses.

The Disability Living Allowance claim form is designed to enable all disabled people to give full details of the effects of their disabilities on their need for personal care and ability to walk, and specifically asks for as much detail as possible about variations in their condition. In view of the concern disabled people have expressed about the length and complexity of the form, we are developing and trialling a number of new style

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claim packs which will give even better opportunities for people to detail how their disabilities affect them on a day to day basis.

Some 1,180 decision makers decide claims for Disability Living Allowance. All of them receive specific training on the causes, manifestations and management of chronic fatigue syndrome. Guidance about the effects of particular disabilities is available to decision makers in the Disability Handbook published by the Department's Corporate Medical Group. The section on chronic fatigue syndrome was written and compiled following consultation with experts in this area of medicine including the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Association. Decision makers can also seek advice from the Department's medical services doctors, all of whom are trained disability analysts with specialist knowledge of assessing the effects of disability and who receive specific guidance on assessing the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome as one of their training modules.

There have been no recent discussions with the Appeals Service on how to deal with Disability Living Allowance claims from people with variable conditions. The Appeals Service is an independent body and it would not be appropriate to seek to influence how they might deal generally with cases involving particular disabilities. On individual cases being considered by the Appeals Service, however, it is open to the Department to express its views about whether the conditions for entitlement to benefit are, or are not, met. In this connection, the recent judgment of the House of Lords in the case of "Moyna" ([2003] UKHL 44) confirmed that the correct approach to entitlement to Disability Living Allowance for people with variable conditions is to take a "broad view". This judgment is binding on both decision makers and the Appeals Service.

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Business Start-ups

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps are being taken to help people in the North East who are 50 and over who are not working to set up their own businesses. [144769]

Jacqui Smith: Self-employment provision is delivered on behalf of the Government primarily through the Small Business Service by Business Link Operators, and their network of providers.

This provision is aimed at all who want to start-up, without any form of prejudice, and regardless of their employment status. They work hard to create effective and efficient referral mechanisms (commonly known as brokerage) to ensure that each customer gets appropriate support for their needs—regardless of ethnic origin, age, gender, sexual orientation or residential location.

Business Links in the NE work with all potential partners and stakeholders, including Jobcentre Plus, who deliver the self-employment option of New Deal 50+ through their network of providers.

The standard model in New Deal provides:

New Deal is just one of many support programmes for budding entrepreneurs. A range of initiatives exist within programmes, focussed upon "deprived areas" (Employment Zones, Action Teams and New Deal for Communities) and groups, and advice and support is also provided by the Small Business Service (DTI), with funding from the European Social Fund and the Prince's Trust Business Programme (which is partly funded by DWP) underpinning much of the support.

NE Business Links all seek to provide on-going support for all who come through this process.

The Regional Development Agency, One North East are currently providing funding to the national organisation for promoting enterprise amongst the over 50s, PRIME to the tune of £185,550 to provide assistance to promote/assist self employment/business start-up to people over 50 in the North East.

This has a special focus on those who are economically inactive, unemployed, and/or a financially and socially excluded background.

This is delivered thought local partner organisations which contract with PRIME to supply marketing and

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outreach programmes, as well as business start-up services from pre-start up advice through to post start-up support and mentoring.

The project also makes available PRIME loans to provide "last resort" start-up finance to non-working people over the age of 50 for promising business ventures. ONE NE's funding also provides the resources for the PRIME regional development officer, who has specific responsibility to co-ordinate delivery of the PRIME initiative in the North East region. It also provides financial incentives to PRIME loan associates and their approved contractees to target the economically inactive and unemployed over 50s. Business Link Tees Valley, which covers my hon. Friend's constituency, is one such loan associate.

NE Business Links actively work with their networks of enterprise training and development providers to ensure that information, advice and assistance is provided to people aged above 50, which match their individual circumstances. The PRIME scheme is introduced to people where appropriate.

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