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23 Feb 2004 : Column 315W—continued

New Deal

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what resources are made available to New Deal advisers to provide practical advice to members of the public on the New Deal programme who are not graduates, who wish to acquire additional skills to pursue careers which require graduate level entry. [154341]

Mr. Browne: The primary aim of New Deal is to help people into employment as soon as possible. The advice given to non-graduate New Deal participants wishing to pursue careers requiring graduate entry level qualifications could depend on a range of factors including the person's existing qualifications, their financial situation, the availability of the training required, and the entry criteria for specific courses.

New Deal advisers have knowledge of the local labour market and access to a range of resources to assist them in providing appropriate advice and guidance to all New Deal participants. Resources used by advisers include: careers publications, access to the internet, links with training providers and local colleges as well as Connexions/Careers Service. Someone without the relevant qualifications to start a degree or diploma course could, for example be referred to an Access Course, which can be funded under New Deal. People interested in further or higher education would also be given advice on sources of funding such as Career Development Loans, and referred to relevant educational bodies for more detailed advice on course funding.

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what procedures are followed to ensure that training programmes and allied support within the New Deal are tailored to an individual's requirements; [154342]

Mr. Browne: The New Deal is primarily a 'jobs first' programme and its success is measured through the number of people helped into work; so far nearly one million people have been helped into employment through New Deal.

Training programmes, and other support available through New Deal, are intended to equip people with the skills needed to compete effectively in the local

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labour market. Effort is made to tailor courses and other support to meet individuals' requirements but this has to be balanced against the recruitment and skills needs of local employers and the likelihood of the training improving employment prospects. In circumstances where the needs of an individual cannot be met through normal contracts with training providers, one-off courses or training provision can be purchased if this is likely to improve the person's chances of getting quickly into work.

It is not the intention of New Deal to place people on training courses that provide them with skills they already have. However, participants on the mandatory New Deal programmes may be expected to attend courses to help address their barriers to work, for example, a two-week Gateway to Work course, which provides jobsearch and motivational support.

Occupational Pensions

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which trade unions he has met to discuss the future of occupational pension schemes; and if he will make a statement. [154748]

Malcolm Wicks: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and I are committed to increasing consensus on pension issues by maintaining frequent contact with all our key partners in both the Trade Unions and the employer community. It is important that we all play our part in making sure that today's and tomorrow's pensioners have the level of income in retirement that they have chosen.

Within the last two months we have met representatives from many union groups including TGWU, TUC, UNIFI, GMB, GPMU, AUT, NUT, UNISON, Usdaw, ISTC, CWU, GPM, GMBI and Amicus.

In the next few weeks I hope to have further meetings with representatives from the TGWU and the CWU.

Pension Credit

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will rank each parliamentary constituency according to the take-up of pension credit. [154747]

Malcolm Wicks: The most recent monthly progress report on pension credit, accompanied by tables showing the number of pension credit households in each parliamentary constituency in Great Britain, was published on 9 February. Copies are in the Library. It is not currently possible to rank constituencies according to the level of pension credit take-up since estimates of the number of eligible households are not available at constituency level.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners are not receiving their pension credit entitlement in (a) Portsmouth and (b) England; and what steps his Department is taking to improve take-up. [155217]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the form requested. However, we estimate that there are approximately 3.15 million pensioner households in England likely to be eligible for pension credit. The

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latest monthly pension credit progress report, published on 9 February, shows that at 31 January, approximately 1.82 million pensioner households in England were receiving pension credit. As at the same date, the numbers of households receiving pension credit in Portsmouth, North and Portsmouth South were 2,555 and 3,862 respectively.

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, explaining 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.

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the average pension credit payment is to pensioners in (a) Jarrow constituency, (b) South Tyneside, (c) Tyne and Wear, (d) the North East and (e) the UK; [155845]

Malcolm Wicks: Information on the number of people who are eligible for pension credit is not available in respect of individual local authority areas or parliamentary constituencies. However, we estimate that around 250,000 pensioner households in the North East Government Office Region (GOR) and around 3.8 million pensioner households in Great Britain are eligible for pension credit. Information on numbers of pension credit recipients and average awards in the areas mentioned is given in the table.

Pension credit recipients in Great Britain, the North East, Tyne and Wear, South Tyneside and Jarrow, 31 January 2004

HouseholdsIndividualsAverage weekly award per household (£)
Great Britain2,172,2802,610,45043.50
North East GOR130,080157,75038.45
Tyne and Wear60,71073,32539.09
South Tyneside9,38511,30539.18
Jarrow parliamentary constituency4,8355,89038.45


1. Numbers of recipients have been rounded to the nearest five.

2. Average weekly awards have been rounded to the nearest penny.

3. Numbers of recipients exclude small numbers of clerical cases. At 31 January there were approximately 8,370 such cases in Great Britain, of which approximately 505 were in the North East GOR.

4. Average weekly awards refer to the amount received by households, which may be a single person or a couple.

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Information on minimum income guarantee is not available in the form requested.

Since 6 October 2003 pension credit has replaced the minimum income guarantee and the 1.8 million cases receiving minimum income guarantee prior to 6 October were automatically transferred to pension credit.

Following the introduction of pension credit, some elements of the support previously provided through minimum income guarantee are now provided through local authority funding for people in care homes, and through tax credits for children. In addition, average pension credit awards are expected to be lower than minimum income guarantee because a savings credit of up to £14.79 (single) or £19.20 (couples) is available for people with modest incomes above the guarantee level who previously received nothing from minimum income guarantee.

Information on the average weekly award and the number of minimum income guarantee recipients in the areas mentioned as at August 2003 appears in the following table.

£ per weekRecipients (thousand)
Jarrow parliamentary constituency44.443.8
South Tyneside44.558.1
Tyne and Wear43.7051.3
North East GOR44.30106.2
Great Britain50.231,802.6


Figures are based on a 5 per cent. sample and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling variation.


IAD Information Centre, 5 per cent. sample.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to encourage pension credit take-up in (a) Lancashire and (b) Chorley; and what part councils play in encouraging take-up. [154745]

Malcolm Wicks: Pension Credit take-up activity is continuing across Lancashire, with the help of partner organisations and local authorities.

Activities in Lancashire include awareness talks to a wide range of organisations and regular information surgeries and publicity events. Local authorities across Lancashire have begun to use their Housing Benefit data to identify those potentially entitled to Pension

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Credit and have worked jointly with The Pension Service on a number of marketing activities. In Chorley, activities undertaken by The Pension service include information surgeries and publicity events in libraries, day care centres and other locations including the local hospital. These are often carried out in collaboration with local authorities.

Formal agreement to proceed with joint teams has been reached with 13 of the 22 primary tier local authorities in the North West and it is expected that joint teams will start to become operational in the region from April 2004.

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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners have claimed pension credit in (a) the North West, (b) Lancashire and (c) Chorley. [154746]

Malcolm Wicks: Pension Credit was implemented in October 2003. The table gives numbers of recipients of Pension Credit in the North West, Lancashire and Chorley at the end of 2003 and at 31 January 2004, the latest date for which figures are available. Numbers of applications for Pension Credit are not available at regional, county or constituency level.

Pension Credit recipients in the North West, Lancashire and Chorley, December 2003 and January 2004

31 December 2003 31 January 2004
North West Government Office Region288,575343,680296,320354,025
Lancashire county district42,07550,53543,87052,940
Chorley parliamentary constituency3,0653,6603,1653,805


1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 5.

2. The figures exclude small numbers of clerical cases. At 31 December 2003 there were approximately 3,555 such cases in Great Britain and 505 in the North West region. At 31 January there were approximately 8,370 cases in Great Britain and 1,190 in the North West region.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many home visits have been carried out by staff of the Pension Service in connection with pension credit in (a) Lancashire and (b) Chorley. [154749]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the form requested. However, approximately 250 home visits involving pension credit were undertaken in the local authority cluster including Preston Chorley and South Ribble in January 2004.

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