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23 Feb 2004 : Column 304W—continued

Benefit Appeals

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful appeals were made against decisions made on (i) disability and (ii) sickness benefits in each year since 1997; and what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the primary decision-making process for (A) disability and (B) sickness benefits. [153377]

Maria Eagle: The information is in the table.

Appeals against decisions made on the key disability and sickness benefits

Benefit type and appeal tribunal decision200320022001200019991998
Incapacity benefit successful appeals22,05518,14515,18516,845Not availableNot available
Incapacity benefit unsuccessful appeals24,15522,91019,38524,545Not availableNot available
Attendance allowance successful appeals3,4803,9605,0353,4402,4552,300
Attendance allowance unsuccessful appeals4,1354,3505,6404,1802,6352,410
Disability living allowance successful appeals36,85539,49545,16531,06525,17020,330
Disability living allowance unsuccessful appeals32,09532,51040,20031,41025,81021,980

For comparison purposes, the total number of beneficiaries of each benefit for each year is shown as follows rounded to the nearest 100,000.

August 20032.51.41.5
August 20022.41.31.5
August 20012.31.31.5
August 20002.21.31.5
August 19992.11.31.5
August 199821.21.6


DWP statistics, given for 31 August for each year shown.

The Secretary of State publishes an annual report on decision-making standards in the Department for Work and Pensions. Copies are available in the Library.

Benefit Fraud

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the regional variation in (a) housing benefit, (b) income support and (c) jobseeker's allowance fraud; and if he will make a statement. [147830]

Mr. Pond: We are committed to driving down levels of fraud and error in the benefits system, including tackling regional variations; and there are a number of specific initiatives within our agencies to achieve this.

The latest published national statistical report 'Fraud and Error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance from April 2001 to March 2002' provides a breakdown of estimates of Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance fraud by each Government Office Region. A copy is available in the Library.

We cannot provide an estimate of the regional variation in Housing Benefit fraud because the measurement sample only supports a national estimate.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the annual level of (a) detected and (b) undetected benefit fraud in each of the last six years. [151020]

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Mr. Pond: We estimate that approximately £2 billion per annum is overpaid as a result of fraud.

We make regular estimates of the total amount of fraud overpayments on Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit and the results are published as National Statistics.

Our estimates of levels of fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance are published in the series of reports "Fraud and Error in Claims for Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance."

For Housing Benefit, we published "Fraud and Error in Housing Benefit, April 2002 to March 2003" on 11 December 2003. This report represents the first national headline estimates, for the level of fraud and error in Housing Benefit, derived via the statistical analysis of data collected by the Housing Benefit Review (HBR) continuous measurement exercise. Copies of the reports have been placed in the Library.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what guidance he has issued regarding joint prosecution for benefit fraud with local authorities; [155071]

Mr. Pond: Comprehensive guidance is provided to fraud investigators in this Department and in local authorities in the form of the Fraud Procedures and Instructions (FPI) Manual. Guidance on joint proceedings with local authorities was updated in June and August 2003, with additional specific guidance on joint prosecutions also issued in August 2003.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many joint prosecutions have been undertaken by the Department with local authorities on benefit fraud in each of the last five years, broken down by local authority; [155072]

Mr. Pond: The information is not available.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with the office of the Deputy Prime Minister about the implications of the Howell Opinion on joint prosecutions for benefit fraud. [155271]

Mr. Pond: There have been no discussions concerning the implications of the Howell Opinion with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. However, Department for Work and Pensions lawyers and officials are continuing to work on the implications of the Opinion to ensure that effective joint working between DWP and local authorities may continue within the existing statutory framework.

Benefit Payments

Mr. Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many recipients of benefits have had

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their payments made to (a) standard bank or building society accounts, (b) bank or building society basic accounts and (c) Post Office card accounts. [142216]

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) child benefit recipients, (b) pensioners and (c) other benefit recipients received payments (i) into bank accounts, (ii) into Post Office Card Accounts and (iii) through post offices using pension and benefit books at the most recent date for which figures are available. [142424]

Mr. Pond [holding answer 8 December 2003]: The information in the table shows the current number of live accounts, by benefit group, actively paid by Direct Payment into a bank or building society account, and Post Office card account.

BenefitAccounts paid by Direct Payment (excluding Post Office Card Account)Accounts paid to Post Office Card AccountAccounts paid by order book
Working Age Benefits1,818,50751,5602,683,926
Disability and Carer's Benefit1,476,6408,1331,534,277
Retirement Pension5,474,79742,5615,606,745
Child Benefit4,848,02952,0531,938,727
War Pensions138,7902,75399,447
All Benefits13,756,763157,06011,863,122


1. This table has been derived from a number of different sources.

2. The Ministry of Defence is now responsible for payment of War Pensions benefit—they provided the figure for Accounts paid to Post Office Card Account up to 22 October 2003.

3. The figures relate to accounts not customers.

4. They only include customers actually receiving an amount in payment.

5. We cannot differentiate between standard bank or building society accounts and basic bank accounts.

6. The table details figures for GB only.

Key figures on the progress of conversion to Direct Payment are available in the Library updated every four weeks.

Benefit Rights

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will review all advertisements encouraging retired people to take up their benefit and tax credit rights in order to ensure that they are clear, unambiguous and accurate; and if he will withdraw advertisements that fail in these respects. [153079]

Malcolm Wicks: We constantly review advertising throughout a campaign to ensure it is working effectively—so that we can take appropriate action if necessary.

DWP national advertising is checked for clarity, comprehension and accuracy prior to publication or broadcast to ensure that our approach is clear and will generate the desired response. This may involve focus group research among representatives of the target audience and clearance by the relevant broadcast standards authorities. The process can also involve Departmental consultation with key stakeholders such as Help The Aged or Age Concern. Major campaigns also use tracking research to identify any issues of clarity, comprehension and accuracy, in order to

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optimise campaign performance and ensure that the public have clear and timely information on entitlements and benefits.

Some local advertising, for example one-off local newspaper advertisements informing the public about outreach events, does not follow this process, as the advertisement just highlights the details of the event. It would not be cost effective to adopt the approach above in these cases.

The Department is not responsible for advertising tax credits.

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to increase awareness of (a) disability and (b) sickness benefits. [153378]

Maria Eagle: The Department continually strives to ensure that its customers are aware of any potential entitlement to disability and sickness benefits. The Department publishes a wide range of literature and this is available from numerous easily accessible sources such as offices of the Department, some post offices, doctors' surgeries or advice centres. These, together with free telephone helplines/ensure that the public have sufficient information to enable them to make informed decisions about disability and sickness benefits.

The Department has a national, regional and local outreach programme in place that aims to promote and raise awareness about availability of services. The Department also meets regularly with partners from local authorities and welfare rights organisations that represent customers with physical, mental and sensory impairments, to ensure that they are kept up to date with our initiatives to modernise the delivery of benefits.

Expert advice is also available from advisers in Job Centre Plus offices which are rolling out over the next two or three years or Social Security offices, about all the benefits that can be claimed by people of working age and about the best steps for moving towards work.

For people with internet access information about all benefits and how these may be claimed is also contained on the DWP website.

The effectiveness of these initiatives has, for example, contributed to the increase in the number of disability living allowance recipients by 25.4 per cent. in the five years to August 2003 and by 5.9 per cent. in the last 12 months alone.

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