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30 Jan 2006 : Column 283W—continued

Discretionary Housing Payments

Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to ensure that local authorities make use of discretionary housing payment funding to help those facing (a) unsustainable housing benefit shortfalls, (b) eviction and (c) homelessness. [43098]

Mr. Plaskitt: Discretionary Housing Payments can be made, subject to an annual cash limit, where a person is entitled to housing benefit or council tax benefit and the local authority consider that they are in need of further financial help with their eligible rent or council tax.

When the Discretionary Housing Payments scheme was introduced in July 2001, general guidance was issued all local authorities, setting out the conditions for entitlement to an award. However, the decision on whether to make a Discretionary Housing Payment is entirely at the discretion of the local authority concerned so we cannot prescribe whether or not an authority must make a payment in any particular circumstances.

Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 24 November 2005, Official Report, column 2253W, on discretionary
 
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housing payments, if he will prioritise the use of the returned funding to help those affected by unsustainable housing benefit shortfalls, eviction and homelessness. [44303]

Mr. Plaskitt: Discretionary housing payments are intended for people who have a shortfall between their housing benefit or council tax benefit and their eligible rent or council tax liability.

The level of Government contribution, which currently stands at £20 millon, is reviewed on an annual basis. Where a local authority does not use its Government contribution in full, the amount is recovered in the subsequent financial year.

While the award of discretionary housing payments is entirely at the discretion of the local authority concerned, we would expect those at risk of eviction and homelessness to be among those considered for such awards.

Employment (Over-60-year-olds)

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether over-60-year-olds who are seeking work are (a) included in unemployment statistics and (b) required to sign on at Jobcentre Plus. [46743]


 
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Margaret Hodge: To be entitled to jobseeker's allowance (JSA) a claimant has to be under state pension age, currently 60 for women and 65 for men. Anyone who claims jobseeker's allowance has to be available for and actively seeking work, and has to sign on at their local jobcentre.

The Office for National Statistics publishes information each month on the number of JSA claimants. It also publishes the International Labour Organisation (ILO) measure of unemployment, derived from the Labour Force Survey. This is based on criteria set down by the ILO, and counts all those who are actively seeking and available for work, regardless of their benefit status. The ILO measure includes those who are claiming JSA, but also those who are actively seeking work but are not eligible for, or choose not to, claim benefit.

EU Presidency (Outcomes)

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the significant outcomes of the recent British EU presidency in the areas of responsibility of his Department. [45196]

Mr. Plaskitt: The main focus of legislative work was the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council which took place on 8 and 9 December 2005. A written statement on the outcomes of this council appeared in Hansard on 14 July, but the main item of interest to my Department was that partial political agreement was reached on the Progress social spending programme.

External Consultants

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department has paid since 2004 to external consultants who had previously been employed by the Department in any capacity within the previous five years. [41207]

Margaret Hodge: The information required to answer this question is not collected centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. Individuals who have previously been employed by the Department are required to obtain permission before being given work as external consultants but details of such approvals are not collated centrally.

Financial Assistance Scheme

Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of expenditure under the Financial Assistance Scheme in (a) 2005–06 and (b) each year from 2006–07 to 2010–11, under the three-year rule. [44260]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 20 January 2006]: It will not be possible to provide firm estimates until we have assessed the eligibility of each scheme and its members. Our latest estimates in current cash terms, based on data provided by a limited number of schemes in late 2004, are shown in the following table. The estimates will change in light of improved information. Over the longer term we estimate expenditure to average £20 million over 20 years.
 
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£ million cash

Pay 80 per cent. to those within three years of scheme pension age
2005–060.5
2006–0710
2007–0815
2008–0925
2009–1030
2010–1130

Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of expenditure under the Financial Assistance Scheme over each of the next five financial years if the three-year rule were to be extended to a five-year rule. [44270]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 20 January 2006]: It will not be possible to provide firm estimates until we have assessed the eligibility of each scheme and its members. Our current estimates, based on data provided by a limited number of schemes in late 2004, in current cash terms are shown in the following table. These estimates will change in light of improved information.
£ million cash

Pay 80 per cent. to those within five years of scheme pension age
2005–060.5
2006–0710
2007–0815
2008–0930
2009–1040
2010–1140

Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in respect of how many company pension funds in wind-up and eligible for assistance under the Financial Assistance Scheme the three-year rule will apply to (a) 0 to 5 per cent., (b) 5 to 10 per cent., (c) 10 to 15 per cent., (d) 15 to 20 per cent., (e) 20 to 25 per cent., (f) 25 to 30 per cent. and (g) more than 30 per cent. of deferred pensioners; and what the total number of deferred pensioners is in each category. [44272]

Mr. Timms: We are not yet able to provide the information required. We will not know how many deferred members will be eligible for assistance from the Financial Assistance Scheme until we have assessed the eligibility of each scheme and its members. It is therefore unlikely that this information will be available until a significant proportion of pension schemes have completed winding up.

Job Vacancies (Easington)

John Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many notified job vacancies there were in the Easington travel to work area in each year since 2002. [44302]

Margaret Hodge: The number of monthly job vacancies notified to Jobcentre Plus in Easington parliamentary constituency since November 2004 is shown in the table.
 
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PeriodNumber of notified job vacancies
November 2004521
December 2004601
January 2005418
February 2005515
March 2005439
April 2005381
May 2005313
June 2005409
July 2005504
August 2005388
September 2005450
October 2005561
November 2005353
December 2005474



Source:
Jobcentre Plus Labour Market System


Easington is not a defined travel to work area in its own right. Additionally, Jobcentre Plus handles only a proportion of vacancies notified by employers. Consequently the figures do not represent the total number of job vacancies available in Easington. Jobcentre Plus vacancy data by parliamentary constituency was made available for the first time in June 2005 with back data to November 2004.


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