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Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the standard weekly rate of earnings disregard for housing benefit is; how often this has been uprated since its introduction; and what the earnings disregard would be if the initial rate of the disregard were uprated in line with inflation from theyear in which it was introduced; 
|Year introduced||Weekly rate when introduced||Current weekly rate||Weekly rate if uprated with inflation(45)|
Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will take steps to improve the (a) transparency and (b) consistency of the method used to determine the local reference rent restriction on housing benefit for tenants in the private rented sector. 
The local reference rent is determined by independent rent officers, who use evidence of the rents that are actually charged in the private rented sector. The rent officer uses only information on rents paid by tenants not in receipt of housing benefit, to determine
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the local reference rent for each locality. The determination is based on the mid-point between the highest and lowest rents, which are not exceptionally high or exceptionally low, for the appropriate sizes of property within the locality. This methodology is used consistently by all rent officers.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the difference between the average amount of housing benefit awarded and the average costs of rent in (a) Huddersfield and (b) the UK. 
|Great Britain||Kirklees MBC|
|Average HB awarded||58.70||50.11|
|Average eligible rent||62.87||53.15|
|Private rented sector|
|Average HB awarded||81.74||56.06|
|Average contractual rent||108.07||80.70|
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance his Department issues to local authorities concerning war pensions when assessing eligibility for housing benefit. 
In addition, there is a total disregard of the whole of the supplementary pension awarded to pre-1973" war widows (widows whose late husband's military service was completed before 31 March 1973 and who are not entitled to an attributable widow's pension from the Ministry of Defence).
For housing benefit and council tax benefit purposes, local authorities, who administer these benefits, have discretionary powers to operate a local scheme to
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disregard up to the full amount of a war disablement pension and war widow's/widower's pension not already subject to a statutory disregard. It is for each local authority to decide how much, if anything, it disregards.
From April 2004, local authorities operating a discretionary local scheme will receive a 0.2per cent. addition to their annual subsidy, capped at 75per cent. of the total benefit cost to the LA of the local scheme.
The rationale behind this change to the subsidy rules on discretionary local schemes is to provide recognition through the subsidy system of the existence of such schemes in local authorities. It does not relate to the extent of the disregard that the local authority applies, which remains a matter for individual local authorities.
|Blackpool North and Fleetwood||6,600|
|Lancaster and Wyre||3,900|
|Morecambe and Lunesdale||5,300|
|Rossendale and Darwen||5,800|
Participants on our Pathways to Work pilots receive information and support on financial, employment and health issues, delivered by skilled personal advisers and health professionals, and can also receive help to return to work through the New Deal for Disabled People programme. People starting work through the pilots receive a return to work credit of £40 for up to 52 weeks if their wage is below £15,000 per annum.
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The Pathways to Work pilots have already been successful in helping more than 17,000 people into work and early evaluation has shown an increase of eight percentage points in people leaving the incapacity benefit register within six months.
Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Workand Pensions how many people have been found guilty of fraudulently claiming incapacity benefit in (a) Jarrow constituency, (b) South Tyneside, (c) North East and (d) the United Kingdom in each year since 1997. 
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