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Disability Discrimination Act

Roger Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he plans to announce his Department's response to the consultation on the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Regulations as they affect people with a cancer diagnosis. [8180]

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Mrs. McGuire: This consultation document (Cm6402) was published on 16 December 2004 and covered a wide range of issues, including proposals on the use of a regulation-making power to exclude certain cancers (mainly minor skin cancers) from the scope of the extended definition of disability in the Disability Discrimination Bill, now the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. The formal consultation ended on 18 March.

During consideration of the Disability Discrimination Bill in the House of Lords, the Government undertook not to use the cancer regulation-making power until it had reviewed in consultation with the Disability Rights Commission and cancer organisations, evidence relating to disability discrimination in respect of cancers not likely to require substantial treatment. This exercise supplemented the public consultation and was carried out in April and May. We are considering the outcomes of both these exercises and expect to be in a position to publish the results shortly.

Disability Premium

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many single claimants aged (a) less than 25 years and (b) 25 years and older are in receipt of (i) disability premium, (ii) enhanced disability premium and (iii) severe disability premium. [1987]

Mrs. McGuire: The information is in the table.
Single claimants of income support (IS), income-based jobseekers allowance(JSA), housing benefit (HB) and council tax benefit (CTB) by age and receipt of type of disability premium, Great Britain, May 2003

Disability premium (DP)Severe disability premium (SDP)Enhanced disability premium (EDP)Claimants with one or more
of DP, SDP or EDP
All single claimants1,030,000670,000110,0001,530,000
Those under 2570,00010,00010,00070,000
Those 25 and over960,000660,000100,0001,450,000

1. Due to the estimation procedure to produce the figures for housing benefit and council tax benefit and the collection procedures in Scotland, figures are rounded to the nearest 10 thousand.
2. Totals may not sum due to the estimation process involved in producing the figures.
3. Overlaps between the benefits have been removed, however there will be overlaps in the figures as it is possible to be in receipt of more than one of the premiums listed.
4. Council tax benefit cases exclude any second adult rebate cases.
5. Housing benefit cases exclude extended payment cases.
1. Housing benefit and council tax benefit management information system, annual 1 per cent. sample, taken in May 2003.
2. Income support and jobseekers allowance: Information Directorate, 5 per cent. samples

Housing Allowance/Benefit

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the implications of using different IT systems to process housing benefit in the local housing allowance pilot areas for the administration of the system. [8865]

Mr. Plaskitt: It is the responsibility of each local authority to review the performance of their information technology supplier. The Department has not made an assessment of the implications of using different IT systems to process housing benefit in the local housing allowance pilot areas.

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the single housing benefit form HBRR1 is (a) included in all rapid claim packs and (b) applicable in every local authority. [5440]

Mr. Plaskitt: The housing benefit form HBRR1 is included in all rapid reclaim packs for income support and jobseeker's allowance. These packs are issued nationally by Jobcentre Plus and cover all local authorities.

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what effect the introduction of local housing allowances has had on the level of fraud in relation to housing benefit in the pathfinder areas; and if he will make a statement. [5473]

Mr. Plaskitt: The information requested is not available.

We are continuing to evaluate the local housing allowance (LHA) with the pathfinder areas. We are not yet in a position to estimate the impact of the LHA on the level of fraud or overpayments.
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Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) initial and (b) projected cost of setting up the local housing allowance scheme in the nine pathfinder areas is, broken down by (i) benefit payments and (ii) IT expenditure. [5490]

Mr. Plaskitt: The total administrative costs of the local housing allowance pathfinders in 2003–04 and 2004–05 were £6.1 million. Of this, £1.4 million covered IT expenditure. Administrative funding for 2005–06 is estimated at £2.75 million, none of which is earmarked for IT costs.

Benefit expenditure is estimated to be £23 million in 2004–05, although this does not represent full year costs for all nine pathfinders as not all of them had fully converted their caseload at the start of the year, and £32.5 million in 2005–06.

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what performance standards for local authority administration of housing benefit have been introduced since 1997; and how many local authorities have met these performance targets since they were introduced. [5491]

Mr. Plaskitt: The Performance Standards were first launched in March 2002 to set out clearly for the first time the standards of service that local authorities should be aiming to deliver. The standards described what needed to be done to administer housing benefit effectively and securely, and addressed all aspects of administration.

The Performance Standards were reviewed in 2004 and a revised publication was issued in March 2005, based on a significantly reduced set of standards to reduce the burden of self-assessment for all 408 local authorities.

The information is in the table.
Number of authorities meeting the standards for processing claims to benefit in each of the years shown

Performance standard:2002–032003–042004–05
Number of local authorities recording new claim processing times of 36 days or less119135202
Number of local authorities deciding on 90 per cent. of claims or more within 14 days7363109
Number of local authorities recording change of circumstances processing times of nine days or less138168191

Local Authority submitted data.

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many appeals have been made against housing benefit decisions in each year since 1997; and in what proportion of cases the appeal was decided in favour of the appellant. [5493]

Mrs. McGuire: This is a matter for Christina Townsend, chief executive of the Appeals Service. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Phil Teece to Mr. Paul Goodman, dated 18 July 2005:

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Housing Benefit Appeals Found in Favour of the Appellant

LodgedCleared in Favour% Cleared in Favour
Apr 01–Mar 023,9403057.71%
Apr 02–Mar 034,17070016.75%
Apr 03–Mar 044,18064515.38%
Apr 04–Mar 053,90075019.27%

1. All figures are subject to change as more up to date data becomes available.
2. Figures for the latest months will rise significantly as information feeds through to the Appeals Service.
3. Figures are rounded to the nearest five.
4. Lodged" denotes the number of reconsiderations submitted to the first tire agency. Lodged data only enters the GAPS database when the Appeal reaches the Appeals Service.
5. The appeals service only started dealing with housing benefit appeals in July 2001.
6. The totals apply to Housing Benefit appeals only and not combined Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit appeals.
100% download of the Generic Appeals Processing System.

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what account his Department is taking of the concerns of landlords in the private rented housing sector regarding direct payment of housing benefit to tenants. [10696]

Mr. Plaskitt: The general provision is that payment of housing benefit is made to the tenant. Every tenant is personally responsible for paying their rent; of those who claim housing benefit, the vast majority accept that responsibility by paying rent to their landlords.

While the present regulations give consideration to the personal responsibility of the tenant and the legitimate interests of landlords, it is ultimately the landlord's own responsibility to ensure that he obtains whatever payments are properly due to him, irrespective of the tenant's source of income.

Housing benefit regulations give local authorities wide-ranging powers to pay benefit direct to a claimant's landlord where there are eight weeks arrears of rent, unless it is in the tenant's overriding interest not to do so, or the landlord is not regarded as fit and proper to receive such payments.

Local authorities also have discretion to make direct payments at any time where they decide that it is in the tenant's best interest to do so. This provision also caters for circumstances where it may be appropriate to make direct payments where there are no rent arrears, for example where the tenant has a history of rent arrears at a previous address or where social or medical problems clearly indicate that help with budgeting is needed.
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If a tenant, having originally agreed to payment direct to his landlord, then withdraws his consent it is still open to the local authority to make direct payment if they are satisfied this would be in the tenant's interest, for example, to prevent rent arrears and possible eviction.

Early experience with the local housing allowance is that landlords are increasingly working with local authorities and their concerns over tenants not paying their rent have not been realised.

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