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12 Feb 2004 : Column 1593W—continued

Departmental Staff

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on

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the proposals drafted by his Department's senior management team for up to 18,000 job cuts in his Department. [154876]

Maria Eagle: This is not a new development. Staff in the Department for Work and Pensions were originally advised in a letter from the Permanent Secretary in October 2002, that as part of the Department's modernisation programme, staffing levels would be reduced between 2003 to 2006. The plans were discussed with the trade unions at the time.

Departmental Staff (Fraud)

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff in his Department have been (a) investigated, (b) suspended, (c) dismissed, (d) prosecuted and (e) convicted for involvement in benefit fraud in each of the last six years; and what amounts were involved in each case. [151999]

Mr. Pond: The Department does not record the information in the precise format requested. Such detail as is available is provided in the tables, which show the value of fraud and the outcome of investigation activity.

Information on the numbers of cases investigated for this type of suspected fraud (i.e. involving members of staff), is not routinely recorded separately from other benefit fraud investigations. Some investigations will inevitably conclude that there has not been any fraud in the individual case, and therefore no further action will be taken.

Table 1—1 April 2003 to 31 December 2003(3)
£

CasenumberValue of fraudOutcome
141,560.00Officer prosecuted and sentenced to 15 months in prison
228,377.00Officer prosecuted and sentenced to 200 hours community service
34,023.71Officer dismissed
42,199.78Officer dismissed
5802.00Officer resigned
6No lossOfficer resigned
73,000.00Officer resigned
8No lossOfficer received a written reprimand
Total79,962.49

(3) Latest period for which information is available.


Table 2—2002–03
£

CasenumberValue of fraudOutcome
15,300.00Officer dismissed
2488.30Officer dismissed
31,807.00Written reprimand and banned from progression for two years
43,469.53Officer dismissed
5135,000.00Officer prosecuted and sentenced to 27 months in prison
62,666.00Officer dismissed and prosecuted with custodial sentence
72,600.00Officer dismissed, prosecution pending
Total151,330.83

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Table 3—2001–02
£

CasenumberValue of fraudOutcome
12,346.00Written reprimand valid for five years
22,660.72Officer dismissed
35,000.00Officer resigned
42,904.00Officer resigned
53,005.00Officer dismissed
6180,000.00Prosecution resulting in custodial sentence
Total195,915.72

Table 4—2000–01(5)
£

CasenumberValue of fraudOutcome
13,963.00Information no longer available
24,272.33Officer resigned
32,18.57No disciplinary action taken
4887.18Prosecuted, conditional discharge, officer resigned
5426.14Formal reprimand for five years
61,807.10Downgraded, formal reprimand and promotion bar
73,697.06Information no longer available
82,820.18Prosecuted by police resulting in community service and order to repay
97,631.37Prosecuted resulting in probation and community service
102,140.00Information no longer available
119,535.84Prosecution resulting in community service and probation
Total37,398.77

(4) The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001. Figures for earlier periods relate to the former Department of Social Security.


Table 5—1999–2000
£

CasenumberValue of fraudOutcome
1210,000.00Prosecution resulting in custodial sentence
230,000.00Prosecution
375.80Officer dismissed
41,753.00Prosecution resulting in probation and community service
54,462.97Information no longer available
68,820.77Prosecution resulting in custodial sentence
7144.20Officer resigned
8134.41Officer resigned
94,224.28Officer resigned
10957.56Prosecution resulting in fine
1117,880.80Prosecution resulting in 150 hours community service order
121,947.08Information no longer available
133,690.80Officer dismissed
143,255.54Officer dismissed
153,186.00Officer resigned
Total290,533.21

Elderly People (Benefits)

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action is being taken to ensure that elderly people receive the benefits to which they are entitled. [153819]

Malcolm Wicks: We want all eligible pensioners to take up their entitlement and initiatives are in place to encourage them to do so.

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We are currently in the main phase of our marketing campaign for pension credit and aim to have at least 3 million households in receipt of pension credit by 2006. By June 2004, we will have written to all pensioner households, to explain about the new entitlement. Direct mail is being supported by extensive TV and press advertising. From May, we intend to focus campaign activity on those pensioners who are likely to be entitled but who have not responded.

The Pension Service Local Service is playing a key role, particularly in encouraging pensioners who are less likely to take up their entitlement to apply. We continue to work closely with organisations such as Help the Aged and Age Concern/at both national and local level, and with local authorities.

Local authorities have a statutory duty to promote take up of housing benefit and council tax benefit. In order to encourage take up of council tax benefit, which has historically been lower than for other income-related benefits, we have launched a take-up campaign to help support local authorities in encouraging those who may be entitled to claim.

The introduction of pension credit also means around 320,000 pensioner households will be newly entitled to council tax benefit. To help facilitate take up of housing benefit and council tax benefit applicants for pension credit who also want to claim these benefits are sent a claim form to return to their local authority. We have also recently introduced a shortened version of this claim form for pensioners to make the process of claiming even easier.

Those pensioners who are entitled to the pension credit guarantee credit have linked entitlement to housing benefit and council tax benefit which can meet up to 100 per cent. of their rent and council tax liability. The Department is improving the take-up of attendance allowance in a targeted and well directed way. We have removed a major barrier to people claiming attendance allowance by introducing a new claim form that is much shorter, personalised and more responsive to customer needs. New information technology has been introduced throughout the organisation to speed up the decision making process and enable a better and more professional service.

We are also working closer with partners such as local authorities and welfare rights organisations who are able to advise people about disability benefits in a far more targeted way than would be possible through any mass disability awareness campaigns.

Employment (Older People)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the Government's policy on older people in the workplace. [154382]

Malcolm Wicks: Our Pensions Green Paper 'Simplicity, security and choice: Working and saving for retirement' reinforced our commitment to extend employment opportunities for older people, with a range of proposals including providing extra back-to-work help for over 50s, and a number of changes to tax and pension rules which will give individuals more choice and opportunity to stay in work longer. We have

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pledged to tackle age discrimination in the workplace, and we will be introducing age legislation covering employment, vocational training and guidance by 2006. We have also made it clear that in the forthcoming age legislation compulsory retirement ages are likely to be unlawful, unless employers can show they are objectively justified. Employers will therefore need to adopt more flexible approaches to retirement.

We are already encouraging employers to adopt non-ageist employment practices through our Age Positive Campaign. The campaign raises employers' awareness of the business benefits of an age diverse workforce and encourages a flexible approach to retirement to open up choice and opportunity for individuals to stay in work longer.

In 2002 we published an updated version of the Code of Practice 'Age Diversity at work: a practical guide for business'. This sets out the standards for non-ageist approaches to recruitment, training, promotion, redundancy and retirement. The code was first developed in 1999 with leading organisations including the CBI, TUC, the Employers Forum on Age and Age Concern. Evaluation shows that from 1999 to 2001 the number of companies using age in recruitment had already fallen from 27 per cent. to 13 per cent. and the number of companies having a policy against employing older workers had dropped from 14 per cent. to 7 per cent.

Since then we have continued to promote the business case for recruiting, training and retaining older workers through the Age Positive campaign and website, www.agepositive.gov.uk, and workshops for smaller businesses. Our research publications include 'Good Practice in the Recruitment and Retention of Older Workers' (December 2001), 'Flexible Retirement: A Snapshot of Large Employers' Initiatives' (June 2002), 'Working after State Pension Age' (2003) and 'Factors affecting the Labour Market Participation of Older Workers' (2004). Copies of these reports are available in the Library.

From Spring 1997 to Spring 2003 our policies have helped increase the employment rate for people aged 50 to State Pension age from over 64 per cent. to over 70 per cent., with nearly 900,000 more people aged 50 and over in work. This increase has been faster than the increase in the overall employment rate. Under New Deal 50 plus over 98,000 people aged over 50 have moved off benefits and gone back to work from April 2000 to March 2003, claiming the programme's financial help. We will continue to build on this to further increase the employment rate of older workers, who have a wealth of skills and experience that can benefit individual businesses and the economy as a whole.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the unemployment rates for the 55-plus age group in (a) Coventry, (b) the West Midlands and (c) the United Kingdom. [154383]

Mr. Browne: We are providing a wide range of services through Jobcentre Plus to help people aged over 55 looking for work. This includes job-search help and advice, training, and in-work financial support. These

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programmes have contributed to the reduction in the level of unemployment. The available information is in the table.

Unemployment rate of people aged 55 or over(5)

West MidlandsUK
19975.55.5
20023.53.3

(5) Figures show the unemployed, based on the International Labour Organisation definition, as a proportion of

economically active people.

Note:

Data has not been aligned with Census of Population data.

Source:

Labour Force Survey, four quarter averages



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