Previous Section Index Home Page

20 Jan 2005 : Column 1093W—continued


Child Care (Schools)

Mr. Trimble: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the proposed level of funding for child care in schools is for the next three years. [209183]

Mr. Gardiner: The Department of Education does not fund child care in schools in Northern Ireland.

DOE Planning Service

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how DOE Planning Service takes (a) the sustainability of the rural environment and (b) the possible destruction of mature trees and hedgerows into account when considering applications for planning permission. [208980]

Angela Smith: The information is as follows.

(a) The Planning Service's approach to sustainable development is set out in its Planning Policy Statement 1: General Principles. When considering planning applications it is guided by the precautionary principle
20 Jan 2005 : Column 1094W
that, where there are significant risks of damage to the environment, its protection will generally be paramount, unless there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest.

(b) Careful consideration is given to the potential impact of any proposed development upon existing trees, woodland and important hedgerows. Wherever possible, these will be protected by the imposition of conditions on planning approvals. Opportunities are also taken to secure new tree planting in development schemes. Where development involves the loss of trees, permission will normally be conditional on a replanting scheme with trees of appropriate numbers, species and size.

Long Service Award

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make available to the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland the 25 year long service award offered in the Department for Work and Pensions. [204125]

Mr. Pearson: A 25 year long service award is not currently part of the terms and conditions of employees of the Department for Social Development but its introduction will be considered as part of the 2005 pay round.

IT Projects

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list his Department's IT projects in each year since 1997, broken down by (a) amount spent, (b) purpose, (c) cost of over-run and (d) time of over-run. [205786]

Mr. Pearson: The following table gives information on IT projects costing in excess of £1 million within the Northern Ireland Office Core, its agencies, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and the Northern Ireland legal offices (Director of Public Prosecutions and Crown Solicitors Office).
Project PurposeAmount spent
(£ million, excluding. VAT)
Cost of over run (£000,
excluding VAT)
Time of Over run
1999OASIS Y2K RefreshTo upgrade NIO departmental infrastructure and make it Y2K compliant.2.2NoneNone
1999COMPASS (to 2002)To provide an e-human resources system for the Northern Ireland Prison Service.50.063 months
1998Bloody Sunday Inquiry—Londonderry (to 2000)Implementation of IT systems to support the work of the inquiry.2.6NoneNone
2000TARIFF (to 2004)To provide office automation and an electronic claim processing system for criminal injuries compensation in Northern Ireland20.21 year
2001PRISM (to spring 2006)To provide a prisoner record system for the Northern Ireland Prison Service7Project
2002CAUSEWAY (PPP project to 20 13)A joint enterprise by criminal justice organisations in Northern Ireland to share information electronically45Project
2002Bloody Sunday Inquiry—LondonImplementation of IT systems to support the work of the inquiry.2.5NoneNone
2003DPP INFRASTRUCTURETo implement a modern ICT infrastructure for the DPP NI.1.2NoneNone
2003FLAX (to 2004)Replace NIO IT infrastructure, provide internet and intranet and meet electronic document and records management targets.8. 5NoneNone

20 Jan 2005 : Column 1095W

School Absence

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of pupils at each key stage in Northern Ireland were referred to the Education Welfare Service for persistent or chronic non-attendance in each academic year from 2000–01 to 2003–04. [208568]

Mr. Gardiner: The percentage of pupils referred to the Education Welfare Service at each key stage in Northern Ireland from 2000–01 to 2002–03 is as follows:
Percentage pupils referred
Key stage2000–012001–022002–03
Key stage 10.891.271.53
Key stage 21.721.882.14
Key stage 34.855.025.12
Key stage 48.128.468.92

The information sought for 2003–04 is not yet available.

I will write to the hon. Gentleman and provide the statistics for 2003–04 as soon as possible.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many pupils at each key stage were referred to the Education Welfare Service in Northern Ireland in 2003–04 for persistent or chronic non-attendance. [208612]

Mr. Gardiner: The information sought is not available as the system used by the Education and Library Boards to record referrals to the Education Welfare Service was changed during 2003–04. Boards have been asked to provide the final returns for 2003–04 to the Department by 31 January and it is intended to publish this information on the website by the end of February 2005.
20 Jan 2005 : Column 1096W

I will write to the hon. Gentleman and provide the details for 2003–04 when they become available.

Midwife-led Maternity Units

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many midwife-led maternity units are operating in Northern Ireland; and at which locations. [209125]

Angela Smith: There is currently one midwifery-led unit located on the same site as the consultant obstetric unit in Northern Ireland, at Craigavon Area Hospital. We have plans to develop similar units at a number of other locations including Altnagelvin Hospital, the Ulster Hospital and the new Belfast Maternity Hospital.

My announcement on 29 July 2004, allowed Boards and Trusts to consider the development of stand-alone Community Midwifery Units in locations where there is the support of local professionals and where safe and effective emergency transfer arrangements are in place. I understand that discussions are ongoing between Down Lisburn Trust and the Eastern Health and Social Services Board about the possibility of such a unit in Downpatrick.

Social Security Agency

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average clearance times were in days achieved by the Social Security Agency (a) in each of the last four financial years and (b) in the current financial year to date for dealing with applications for (i) jobseeker's allowance, (ii) income support, (iii) disability living allowance and (iv) incapacity benefit. [208587]

Mr. Spellar: The average clearance times in days achieved by the Social Security Agency in each of the last four financial years and in the current financial year to date for the benefit applications in question are set out in the following table.
Benefit typeTargetResultTargetResultTargetResult
Jobseeker's allowance93% in 21 days94.7% in 21 daysAACT 12 daysAACT 8.7 daysAACT 12 daysAACT 9.5 days
Income support87% in 13 days89.6% in 13 daysAACT 12 daysAACT 5 daysAACT 12 daysAACT 7.2 days
Disability living
95% in 73 days79% in 73 days95% in 73 daysAACT 83.9% in 73 daysAACT 60 daysAACT 73.6 days
Incapacity benefit85% in 30 days80% in 30 daysAACT 30 daysAACT 28 daysAACT 30 daysAACT 29.1 days

Benefit type 2003–04
TargetResultTargetYear to date
Jobseeker's allowanceAACT 12 daysAACT 10 daysAACT 12 daysAACT 11 days
Income support12 daysAACT 8.6 daysAACT 12 daysAACT 9.8 days
Disability living allowanceAACT 60 daysAACT 95.1 daysAACT 60 daysAACT 57.9 days
Incapacity benefitAACT 30 daysAACT 28.5 daysAACT 30 daysAACT 39.6 days

The targets set for 2000–01 were expressed in terms of claims clearance time. These measured the percentage of processed claims which were cleared in X days.
From April 2001 to date SSA performance is expressed in terms of actual average clearance times (AACT), i.e. the cumulative number of days taken to clear the claim divided by the total number of claims processed.

20 Jan 2005 : Column 1097W

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the accuracy of the figures for (a) debtors and (b) creditors recorded by the Social Security Agency. [208590]

Mr. Spellar: The Agency reports on debtors and creditors for both administration and programme expenditure.

Administration expenditure

The Agency has systems in place, both automated and manual, to collate and report on debtors and creditors.

The debtors and creditors are reported in the Agency Annual Accounts which are audited by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO). The NIAO have certified the accuracy of debtors and creditors.

Programme expenditure

The benefit overpayment debtor balance in the 2003–04 Social Security Agency account was qualified by NIAO because of significant uncertainty over the accuracy and completeness of debt records.

The Agency is actively engaged in resolving these problems, and has established a debt management transformation programme. This will result in the procurement of a modern IT system for the management of debt and improved debt processes to both account for debt much more accurately in future and achieve better recovery rates.

Likewise, NIAO considered that there was considerable uncertainty over the encashment control creditor balance.

The Agency believes that much more reliance can be placed on the creditor balance. This is because benefit payments "issued" are recorded by the programme accounting computer system and the actual encashments of these payments are either reconciled by the Agency or agreed with the Post Office.

The difference between payments issued less those encashed is represented by the creditor balance and so the Agency concludes that, although a customer breakdown of the total is unavailable, the balance itself is actually robust.

Next Section Index Home Page