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Housing Benefit

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; [28782]

(2) what representations he has received regarding an uprating of the earnings disregard for housing benefit for single parents and disabled people; and if he will make a statement. [28783]

Mr. Plaskitt: We have not had any representations about issues relating to earnings disregards in housing benefit for single parents or the disabled.

Details of the information requested about earnings disregards in housing benefit are in the table.
Housing benefit earnings disregards at introduction, currently and uprated by inflation since introduction

Year introducedWeekly rate when introducedCurrent weekly rateWeekly rate if uprated with inflation(45)
Single Person
Higher Rate(46)198815.00(46)20.0025.10
Lone Parents(47)

(45)In the final column the earnings disregards have been uprated using the retail price index (RPI) minus housing costs in the preceding September. Figures are rounded to the nearest 5p.
(46)The higher rate of disregard, which applies to carers, people with disabilities, part-time fire-fighters, lifeboat-men, auxiliary coastguards, and members of any territorial or reserve force, was increased from £15 to £20 in 2001.
(47)The weekly rate for lone parents has not increased since it was introduced in 1990. However, lone parents were entitled to the higher rate of £15 before 1990.
The standard disregard for singles and couples has not been increased since being introduced in 1988.

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to simplify the housing benefit non-dependent deduction regime. [29996]

Mr. Plaskitt: We have no current plans to reform housing benefit deductions for non-dependants.

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. [29997]

Mr. Plaskitt: 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.

An individual can ask for a pre-tenancy determination, through their local authority, to find out what the local reference rent would be prior to taking up a tenancy.

We have no immediate plans to change the way local reference rents are determined or applied.

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. [30831]

Mr. Plaskitt: Information is not available for the UKor by parliamentary constituency. Information for Great Britain and Kirklees metropolitan council is in the table.
Weekly average housing benefit awarded, average eligible rent(48) and average contractual rent, by tenancy

Great BritainKirklees MBC
Social sector
Average HB awarded58.7050.11
Average eligible rent62.8753.15
Private rented sector
Average HB awarded81.7456.06
Average contractual rent108.0780.70

(48)For tenants in the social rented sector it is assumed that the eligible rent (the maximum amount of rent eligible for housing benefit) is equal to contractual rent because the maximum housing benefit entitlement for these tenants is typically equal to their rent. The amount of HB awarded accounts for non dependant deductions and income brought to account so on average the amount of HB awarded will be less than the costs of rent.
Housing Benefit Management Information System Quarterly 100 per load stock-count May 2005, Private Rented Sector contractual rent figures are from Rent Officer data May 2005 and apply to deregulated cases only.

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. [29682]

Mr. Plaskitt: In recognition of the special nature of war disablement and war widow's and war widower's pensions, there is a statutory £10 per week disregard of these payments.

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).

There is also a full disregard of any mobility supplement and payment of war disablement pension based on a need for attendance.

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.

Incapacity Benefit

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people are claiming incapacity benefit in each of the Lancashire constituencies. [30622]

Mrs. McGuire: The most recent available information is in the table.
Incapacity benefit and severe disablement allowance claimants in the Lancashire parliamentary constituencies; as at May 2005

Blackpool North and Fleetwood6,600
Blackpool South8,200
Lancaster and Wyre3,900
Morecambe and Lunesdale5,300
Ribble Valley3,400
Rossendale and Darwen5,800
South Ribble3,800
West Lancashire5,100

1.Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred.
2.'Claimant' figures include all incapacity benefit (IB) and severe disability allowance (including IB credits only cases).
DWP Information Directorate, Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study 100 per cent. data.

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what (a) incentives and (b) support he is providing to encourage claimants of incapacity benefit back into work. [30623]

Margaret Hodge: 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. [31706]

Mrs. McGuire: The information is not available.

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