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9 Sept 2004 : Column 1371W—continued

Specialist School Status

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the eligibility criteria for specialist school status. [187703]

Mr. Charles Clarke: All maintained secondary schools in England are eligible to apply for specialist schools status. We lifted the funding cap in 2002 and expect all secondary schools to become specialist as and when they are ready. Specialist schools now account for 62 per cent. of maintained secondary schools. The eligibility criteria for specialist schools has been placed in the library.

Vocational Education

Ann Winterton: What recent meetings he has had with employers to discuss vocational education. [187711]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: I hold regular meetings with the CBI, the TUC and educationists about skills and vocational education. We have established a new Skills Alliance which Charles Clarke chairs jointly with Patricia Hewitt. This Skills Alliance brings Ministers from four Departments of State, the CBI, the TUC and Small Business Council together on a twice yearly basis. I also meet regularly with representatives of the 19 employer led Sector Skills Councils. I visit individual employers to discuss their workforce development plans and needs.
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Employment Zones

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he plans to extend the number of Employment Zones. [186424]

Jane Kennedy: There are no current plans to extend the number of Employment Zones.

Housing and Council Tax Benefit

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many households containing a person aged 60 years or over were in receipt of council tax benefit in each of the last 12 months. [187164]

Mr. Pond: The information is not available in the format requested. At May 2002 the number of council tax benefit recipients aged 60 years or over in Great Britain was 2,363,000.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of local authorities have produced a written take-up strategy of a sufficient standard to satisfy his Department's performance standard on take-up of housing and council tax benefits; and which local authorities have failed to meet this standard. [187163]

Mr. Pond: The Performance Standards for housing benefit and council tax benefit set out the standards of performance the Department expects local authorities to achieve over a period of time. Self-assessment is voluntary so local authorities are not required to report performance against them to the Department, although we encourage them to do so. Of the 64 local authorities who have so far supplied information about their performance, 49 (77 per cent.) have a written take-up strategy which meets the standard. Insufficient data are available to provide a comprehensive list of all the local authorities who do not meet this standard.

Long-term Unemployed (Over-50s)

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate the Government have made of the cost to the Exchequer of men and women over the age of 50 who are long-term unemployed in each year since 1997. [186937]

Jane Kennedy: Figures on the direct benefit costs for long term unemployed people aged over 50 are in the following table. Official estimates are not available for wider aspects of cost such as tax payments forgone.
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Benefit expenditure on men and women over the age of 50 who are long term unemployed (5)

£ million

(5) Figures include expenditure on Jobseeker's Allowance (Income Based), and on Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit paid with JSA(IB). Figures are expressed in nominal terms and are rounded to the nearest million.
(6) Estimated outturn.
Figures are based on four quarterly averages from DWP IAD Information Centre. "Long term unemployed" has been taken to mean greater than or equal to 52 weeks.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in receipt of pension credit also receive (a) housing benefit, (b) council tax benefit and (c) other means-tested benefits. [186780]

Mr. Pond: The most recent housing benefit/council tax benefit data analysed by age and reference to other benefits is at May 2002, which predates the introduction of pension credit.

With the introduction of pension credit, around 2 million pensioner households will now qualify for more help, or qualify for help for the first time, with their council tax and/or rent.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the rate is at which a pensioner with average housing costs and council tax costs would have (a) housing benefit and (b) council tax benefit withdrawn if they were in receipt of pension credit and had a total gross weekly income of (i) £80, (ii) £100, (iii) £120, (iv) £140, (v) £160, (vi) £180, (vii) £200 and (viii) other incomes as are available. [187343]

Mr. Pond: The answer is in the table.
Rates of withdrawal of housing and council tax benefits for pension credit recipients with varying incomes

Gross weekly
Net weekly incomeHousing benefit withdrawal rateCouncil tax benefit withdrawal rate

1. An "average pensioner" has been interpreted as being single, aged 65 or over with no dependents, no severe disabilities and no additional income or costs (such as annuities, trust fund payments, mortgage interest payments, etc.).
2. In order to make the above calculation, it has been assumed that rent and council tax levels for the average pensioner are £44 and £12 respectively. These are the average amounts used in the DWP Tax Benefit Model Tables.
3. Withdrawal rates do not include the impact of tax i.e. tax withdrawal is not included in total withdrawal rate figures.
4. N/a indicates there is no title to this benefit at, or above, this level of income.

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Departmental Staff

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance is available for assisting employees suffering from (a) stress and (b) depression from the human resources department of his Department. [187165]

Maria Eagle: Comprehensive advice surrounding managing attendance in the DWP is contained in the Department and You—the Corporate HR guidance. This is accessible via the Department's intranet and contains practical guidance for the Departments human resources (HR) practitioners and line managers to follow.

In cases of stress or depression affecting employees, HR is able to offer a range of guidance to help individuals. This includes referral to our occupational health service and/or to our employee assistance service. Both providers offer a professional service and would discuss, separately, with individuals affected by stress or depression ways in which both conditions might be addressed and overcome. The Department has recently launched a Well-being at work policy to offer assistance to people affected by stress.

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