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Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many recipients of (a) incapacity benefit and (b) severe disablement allowance there were in Wrexham in each year since 1997, broken down by ward. 
|As at August|
|Gresford East and West||110||100||100|
|Gwersyllt East and South||205||215||205|
|Marford and Hoseley||45||45||45|
|As at August|
|Gresford East and West||100||110||100||95|
|Gwersyllt East and South||190||200||195||200|
|Marford and Hoseley||45||45||40||50|
|As at August|
|Gresford East and West||10||10||15|
|Gwersyllt East and South||25||25||20|
|Marford and Hoseley||5||0||0|
|Gresford East and West||10||10||10||10|
|Gwersyllt East and South||25||25||20||25|
|Marford and Hoseley||5||0||0||5|
We have made significant progress in taking forward our Housing Benefit Reform Programme which was launched in October 2002. As part of this reform, we implemented the local housing allowance in nine pathfinder authorities for tenants in the deregulated private sector. Nine more local authorities will implement the local housing allowance between April and July 2005. Early results from the Pathfinders are contained in the evaluation report Delivering the Local Housing Allowance: A summary of the early experiences of implementing the Local Housing Allowance in the nine Pathfinder areas", published in April, which is available in the Library.
In April 2004, we introduced a number of measures to improve work incentives for housing benefit recipients. These included removing the need for people to reclaim housing benefit when they start a job. In most cases this ensures that benefit claims remain live" while local authorities determine whether someone is entitled to continue claiming housing benefit. We also applied the additional earnings disregard in housing benefit and council tax benefit to those customers who are working for 16 or more hours a week and who have children or are disabled, and to some people of 50 or over who have recently returned to work. In addition, we extended housing benefit run-on to people receiving incapacity benefit and severe disablement allowance.
We have also introduced a range of other measures which act as real incentives for people to move off benefit and into work. The National Minimum Wage was introduced in April 1999. It established minimum standards of pay in the labour market. In October 2004 the minimum wage was increased from £4.50 per hour to £4.85 for workers aged 22 and over and from £3.80 per hour to £4.10 per hour for people aged 1821.
Building on the success of working families' tax credit (WFTC), disabled person's tax credit and the children's tax credit, from April 2003 we introduced two new tax
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credits: the child tax credit (CTC) and the working tax credit (WTC) both of which are designed to make work pay.
The Adviser Discretion Fund was introduced in July 2001, giving Jobcentre Plus Advisers direct access to funds to remove immediate barriers to employment and help people move quickly into work. In October 2004 we introduced Job Grant to help people manage until they receive their first wages. Additionally, housing benefit and council tax benefit extended payments allow maximum housing benefit and council tax benefit to continue for the first four weeks after starting work.
Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether IT systems used to administer housing benefit by local authority departments, local Jobcentre Plus offices and his Department are able to communicate with each other directly; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Currently there are no facilities for direct communication between the Department for Work and Pension Information Technology (IT) Systems and Local Authority Housing Benefit IT systems. The Department does, however, supply local authorities with Remote Access Terminals that allow authorised users to view details of income support, pension credit and jobseekers allowance customers that are relevant to housing benefit and council tax benefit entitlement.
DWP also provides electronic transfers of data to relevant local authorities on awards, changes and terminations of income support, job seekers allowance and pension credit for customers known to be in receipt of housing benefit or council tax benefit. This allows any changes reported to DWP to be reflected in local authority systems.
Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment he has made of the likely effects on costs of the introduction of the local housing allowance across England; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Plaskitt: We have put in place an independent, comprehensive evaluation of the nine pathfinders which will not conclude until spring 2006. This will inform the design of the scheme and the associated costs.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Quarterly Summary Statistics for February 2005 (the latest available published data) show that there were 11,200 housing benefit recipients assessed under the single room rent.
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1819W
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether housing benefit paid to council tenants is funded from (a) social security funds, (b) local authority funds and (c) central Government funds. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Central Government funds housing benefit via interim payments of subsidy made to local authorities during the year. Authorities are then required to submit claims for subsidy, after the end of the financial year. These are compared to the interim amounts and further payments to, or recoveries from, authorities may be made.
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