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18 Nov 2004 : Column 1876W—continued

Civil Servants (Criminal Records)

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what procedures are in place (a) to check the criminal records of civil servants in his Department and agencies responsible to his Department, including the Benefits Agency, who have access to computer databases containing confidential information on the public and (b) to ensure that there can be no improper use of computer databases containing confidential information on the public; and if he will make a statement. [194596]

Maria Eagle: All prospective employees of the Department and it's agencies are required to provide information about their eligibility to be employed, which include the requirement to declare any criminal convictions.

If anyone in the Department is charged with or convicted of a criminal offence they are required to inform their manager straight away.

When an offence comes to light consideration is given to establish whether restriction of duties, transfer or suspension from duty is appropriate and what disciplinary action is required. Failure to report a criminal caution can of itself be treated as a disciplinary offence.

As civil servants all Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff are subject to the provisions of the Civil Service Code and the Department's Standards of Behaviour statement is based on it.

Staff standards of behaviour require that computers or computer systems must only be used to access or process information people need to do their job. They must not access (or attempt to access) their own or other people's records, systems or information without authorisation.

There are also system generated access controls and auditing mechanisms. Staff are made aware of these measures during their training and consolidated by central guidance. Access to systems is approved by line managers and controlled by the local IT specialist.

Council Tax Benefit

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the estimated expenditure on council tax benefit in England (a) was in 2003–04 and (b) will be in 2004–05 across (i) all council tax benefit recipients and (ii) pensioner recipients. [198488]

Mr. Pond: The information is in the following table.
Estimated expenditure on council tax benefit in England
£ million, nominal terms

2003–042004–05
All council tax benefit recipients2,8113,085
Pensioner recipients1,4311,625




Notes:
1. All figures have been rounded to the nearest million pounds.
2. All pensioner figures quoted relate to people aged 60 and over.
Source:
The estimated costs shown are consistent with data published at Spending Review 2004.




 
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Data Sharing

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of data sharing practices between executive bodies of his Department. [196544]

Jane Kennedy: The Department's IT systems currently allow the sharing of limited customer information between its Agencies. As part of the modernising delivery programme, we are implementing systems that will allow Agency IT systems to increase data sharing across the Department. It is envisaged that this IT will be operational from the middle of 2005 and will be subject to the limitations set out in the relevant data protection legislation.

These improvements will enable a more consistent and consolidated approach when interacting with our customers.

Departmental Advertising Costs

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost of (a) creative work, (b) media spend and (c) administration for his Department's advertising activity has been in each financial year since 1997–98, broken down by contractor. [197299]

Jane Kennedy: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) on 24 May 2004 Official Report, columns 1463–64W.

Using the figures for advertising expenditure from that answer, which referred to media spend by campaign, the following table adds the creative costs for those campaigns where creative costs can be separately identified. Therefore advertising media spend and creative work for 2003–04 broken down by campaign are as follows:
£

2003–04 campaignAdvertising expenditureCreative costs
Pension credit11,100,0002,068,720
The Pension Service570,00071,354
Direct Payment11,044,0001,206,890
Direct Payment road show51,000850
Fraud8,383,000860,493
Winter fuel637,00038,418
Council tax benefit500,00032,688
New Deal5,800,0001,152,038
Jobseeker Direct help-line1,700,000347,928
Age Positive46,00011,388
DDA awareness and disability rights47,0002,583
Totals39,878,0005,793,350

The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001. Further details of creative spend, including for previous years, could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
 
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We are unable to identify administrative costs separately as departmental administrative staff do not work solely on advertising campaigns and agencies do not charge separately for administrative support.

All these figures are net of VAT.

Departmental Changes

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made under race relations regulations of the effect on ethnic minorities of the organisational changes to his Department in the South East region. [152147]

Maria Eagle: We are committed to securing equality of opportunity for all our customers. This commitment is delivered through the implementation of our Race Equality Scheme and through the range of measures highlighted in our ethnic minority business delivery plan. The Department is proactive in seeking advice and guidance on the impact of all policies, including organisational change, on ethnic minorities. Plans are subject to consultation with our staff and their representatives and where these organisational changes have an impact on the services provided to customers they are subject to public consultation with local community groups.

Departmental Events (Funding)

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the (a) conferences, (b) publications, (c) initiatives, (d) projects and (e) receptions organised by his Department which have received funding from outside commercial bodies, since May 1997, broken down by (i) funding body and (ii) amount paid. [196596]

Maria Eagle: The information requested is not available centrally in the format requested and could be collected only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Policies

Jim Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will set out, with statistical evidence relating as closely as possible to the south Dorset constituency, the effects of changes to departmental policy since 1997 on the south Dorset constituency. [194963]

Jane Kennedy: We have undertaken a fundamental overhaul of the welfare system, transforming it from a passive to an active system that fights poverty, creates opportunity and helps people become self-sufficient and independent.

Through Jobcentre Plus, we are promoting work as the best form of welfare for people of working age. The number of people in work is at historically high levels of over 28.39 million; in south Dorset, the proportion in employment has risen to 81.1 per cent.

Our New Deals have helped lone parents, the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, disabled people, the over 50s and partners of unemployed people to move from benefit into work. Nationally over 1.1 million people have been helped into work by the New Deals, with over 1,400 in south Dorset alone.
 
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Significant progress has been made in eradicating child poverty, and the latest figures for 2002–03 show that there were over half a million fewer children in relative low income than there were in 1996–97. Child benefit is now worth £16.50 a week for the eldest child, compared to only £11.40 in 1997, benefiting 9,875 families in south Dorset.

We want all pensioners to have a decent and secure income in retirement and to share fairly in the rising prosperity of the country, and our first priority has been to help the poorest pensioners. The Government will be spending nearly £10 billion more in 2004–05 (in 2004–05 prices) on pensioners as a result of measures introduced since 1997, with around half going to the poorest third.

Our reforms include the state second pension, which helps more of tomorrow's pensioners build up better pensions. Pension credit, introduced from October 2003, provides a contribution to a guaranteed minimum income for those aged 60 and over and, for the first time, those over aged 65 and over may be rewarded for modest savings and income. Around 3,980 pensioners in south Dorset are receiving pension credit, with an average award of £37.47 per week.

We know that older people are disproportionately affected by fuel poverty. This winter (2004–05) we have again made available a winter fuel payment of £200 for each eligible household with someone aged 60 or over to help with their fuel bills. The additional 80+ Annual Payment gives an extra £100 to eligible households where there is someone aged 80 or over. Last winter there were 15,595 households in south Dorset which received the winter fuel payment and, of those 4,220 households received the additional Annual Payment. We expect numbers to be similar for this winter (2004–05).

Additionally for this year eligible households with someone aged 70 or over will receive the One-off 70+ Payment of £100 to help with living expenses including council tax bills. It will be paid with the winter fuel payment and last winter there were 9,825 households in south Dorset with someone aged 70 or over which received a winter fuel payment. We expect a similar number to receive the One-off 70+ Payment this winter (2004–05).

Some 20,540 pensioners in south Dorset benefited from the above inflation increase in the rate of basic state pension from April 2003. Those over 75, of whom we estimate there are about 6,890 in south Dorset, may also qualify for free TV licences.

In 2002–03 we estimate there were around 10 million adults (22 per cent.) and 0.7 .million children (5 per cent.) in GB likely to be covered by the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The figures can be broken down to regional level which shows that 22 per cent. of adults and 6 per cent. of children in the south-west of England are likely to be covered by the provisions of the DDA.

Information on the numbers of customers in the south-west who are in receipt of disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA) is in the following table. This information is not available at constituency level.
 
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Operational year
DLA/AA allowances recipients (Thousand)
South-west
2004312.5
2003296.8
2002279.2
2001271.6
2000259.6
1999257.9
1998247.1
1997230.3




Source:
Information Centre, Figures taken from a 5 per cent. sample at 31 May each year.




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