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Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list (a) reviews undertaken and (b) departmental publications issued on (i) housing benefit and (ii) council tax benefit since 1997. 
The Department publishes a number of handbooks and guidance manuals, together with necessary amendments, to aid local authorities in the administration of these benefits. In addition, the Department issues circulars and bulletins to local authorities, which provide necessary information on a more immediate basis. Since 1997, the Department has issued 407 administration circulars, 175 fraud circulars, 64 subsidy circulars, 18 general bulletins and 19 urgent bulletins.
The Department also publishes research and statistical reports. A list of reports relating to housing benefit and council tax benefit, together with details of relevant web sites, has been placed in the Library.
Margaret Hodge: Since 1997 claimant unemployment has fallen by 34 per cent., long term unemployment by 68 per cent. and long term youth unemployment by 67 per cent. in Ribble Valley. The number of out of work lone parents has fallen by 33 per cent. and those claiming incapacity benefits has fallen by 8 per cent. over the same period.
East Lancashire Jobcentre Plus district has made a significant contribution to these successes. In addition to the new deals, which have helped 840 people in to work, they also operate Action Team for Jobs,
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Progress2Work Linkup and Workstep helping a broad range of the local community to improve their skills and find work.
Specific success stories include the Ethnic Minority Outreach programme. This small team works with the local Asian community by, for example, announcing recruitments in mosques and placing adverts in local businesses. Since May 2005, 116 people have been helped in to jobs by this team.
The Pathways to Work Incapacity Benefit Reforms Pilot has been operational in East Lancashire since April 2004 and is already achieving excellent results and feedback. The district achieved 1,179 job entries from the sick and disabled group of customers during the period April 2004 to March 2005 in comparison with 384 for the same period the year before.
The district is also involved in the Extension of the Pathways to Work Pilot. The Extension Pilot has been operational In East Lancashire from 7 February 2005 and to date has resulted in 70 customers returning to work.
Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 14 July 2005, Official Report, column 1271W, on housing benefit, what factors explain the variation in the proportion of tenants whose local housing allowance is being paid direct to the landlord in each of the nine Pathfinder authorities. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The Department has not undertaken any further analysis to identify additional factors that influence the variation in the proportion of tenants whose local housing allowance is being paid directly to the landlord in Pathfinder areas.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost of raising the restriction on the number of hours a week a housing benefit recipient can study to (a) 20 hours and (b) 24 hours. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will meet representatives of the Foyer Federation to discuss the impact of housing benefit regulations on the ability of young people in housing need to achieve qualifications below degree level; 
(2) what assessment he has made of the merits of ending the restriction on the number of hours a week a housing benefit recipient can study if they are retaking GCSEs, studying for A-Levels or for an NVQ at level 3 or below; 
(3) what assessment he has made of the effects of the 16 hour housing benefit rule on the number of young people over the age of 19 who are able to take up education and training opportunities without losing their homes; and if he will make a statement; 
Individuals receiving housing benefit can currently study for qualifications below degree level, as long as it is for less than 16 guided learning hours a week. This is not always a significant barrier as many full-time Learning and Skills Council courses are just over 12 guided learning hours a week.
It is a matter of record that the policy of both this and previous Governments has been to exclude most, but not all, full-time students from entitlement to housing benefit; since 1990 financial support for those students opting to study full time has been seen as the responsibility of the education system, rather than the benefit system.
One of the outcomes of the recent Social Exclusion Report Review of Financial Support, Supporting Young People to Achieve" is that from April 2006, if someone is in non-advanced education when they turn 19 they can continue to receive certain benefits, including income support, and therefore housing benefit, and education maintenance allowance until they have completed their current course of study or reach age 20.
This is clearly an improvement on the previous situation, but it is likely that there will still be some young people who have had to abandon their attempts to catch up on learning because they reach 20 before they have finished their course. Because of this, the Government are committed to keeping this new age limit under review.
Additionally, we recognise that for some a different approach may be needed. Consequently, from next September as part of the New Deal for Skills we will be piloting in some Jobcentre Plus districts the effect of allowing low skilled jobseekers to take up full-time further education courses as a route into work when a lack of skills is considered to be a significant barrier.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average administration cost per claimant was of housing benefit in each of the last five years in each benefit authority. 
The Department does not collect management information relating to the cost to local authorities of administering housing benefit under the existing national scheme. The Department has recently commissioned a research project looking into the overall administration costs of housing benefit and council tax benefit which may help us obtain an indication of these costs in the future.
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Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost of removing the single room rent upper limit on housing benefit provisions for those aged under 25 years. 
Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 8 December 2005]: The cost of removing the single room rent upper limit on housing benefit for those aged under 25 years in the private rented sector has been estimated to be at least £60 million per year.
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