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9 Feb 2006 : Column 1458W—continued


Helen Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many home visits his staff made to benefit (a) claimants and (b) recipients in (i) 2003–04 and (ii) 2004–05; and how many such visits his staff expect to make in each of the next two years. [48445]

Margaret Hodge: The available information is on the tables.
Jobcentre Plus home visits made by staff to claimant/recipients

Gateway intervention(27)131,04075,40618,232
Caseload intervention(27)209,421176,97185,196
Customer compliance(28)299,699305,693
Core visits(29)169,963143,130145,850149,243151,199

(27) Gateway and caseload interventions are performed as part of customer compliance activity from 2006–07.
(28) Customer compliance figures for 2007–08 are forecasted based on 2006–07 calculations and the trend of claims/caseload for income support/jobseeker's allowance. Approx 200,000 cases per annum previously handled by Fraud Investigation Service will be actioned by customer compliance officers from 2006–07. Customer compliance activity is always intended to take place face-to-face with the customer, although not necessarily via a home visit. An assumption has been made for these figures that 50 percent will take place in a Jobcentre Plus office while the remaining 50 percent will be carried out by visit.
(29) Core visits figures for 2006–07 and 2007–08 are forecasted based on the previous three years actual data and the volume trend of claims for income support/jobseeker's allowance.
1. Figures are not kept on the number of home visits made by Fraud Investigation Service investigators.
2. Gateway interventions are visits made before benefit paid based on a risk priority list.
3. Caseload interventions are visits made during the lifetime of a claim based on a risk priority list.
4. Customer compliance visits are made to a customer where there is alleged fraud/error but a sanction/prosecution is unlikely.
5. Core visits usually have a customer service angle. Examples are appointee visits and delivery of overpayment letters.

9 Feb 2006 : Column 1459W

Pension service effective home visits

April 2003—March2004420,237
April 2004—March 2005582,790
April 2005—December 2005661,808

Figures for future years are not available but the projected forecast is that the current visit volumes will be maintained.

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in Wales are (a) entitled to council tax benefits and (b) receiving council tax benefits; and if he will make a statement. [49747]

Mr. Plaskitt: The latest available information on unclaimed council tax benefit is in Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take Up in 2003/2004", a copy of which is in the Library.

As at August 2005 there were 277,000 households in Wales receiving council tax benefit.

Child Support

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the 10 largest total (a) compensation and (b) maladministration payments made by the Child Support Agency to a single individual, including separate payments made in relation to a single case requiring compensation, have been since May 1997; and if he will make a statement. [33435]

Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 5 December 2005]: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the chief executive, Mr. Stephen Geraghty. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty:

9 Feb 2006 : Column 1460W

Amount (£)

Total number of payments made since 1 December 200135,558
Under £1,00033,227
Between £1,000 and £9,9992,289
Between £10,000 and £49,99942
Over £50,0000

Citizens Juries

Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on how many occasions his Department consulted citizens juries on departmental policies in the last five years; in how many of those consultations the recommendations of the citizens' jury differed from existing departmental policy; and on how many occasions departmental policy was changed to reflect the recommendations of the citizens' jury. [46228]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001 from the Department of Social Security and parts of the former Department for Education and Employment including the Employment Service.

Since its inception, the Department for Work and Pensions has not used the citizen's jury method to consult on its departmental policies.
9 Feb 2006 : Column 1461W

Civil Partnership (Benefits)

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many single people receiving (a) income support and (b) pension credit live with another single person of the same sex; whether all such benefit recipients have been informed of their obligation under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to inform the appropriate benefit office if they are living together as if they were civil partners; what guidance has been promulgated on the meaning of that term; and if he will ensure that those who fail to report their relationship are not subject to penalties or recovery of consequent overpayment of benefits. [36307]

Mrs. McGuire: There is very little information about same-sex couples in this country. The labour force survey suggests that there are about 50,000 cohabiting same-sex couples in the UK. The Department does not have any statistical information about individuals currently receiving income related benefits who are living with someone of the same sex as though they were civil partners.

The Department has conducted a targeted publicity campaign intended to ensure that all benefit recipients are aware of the need to advise the relevant benefit office as soon as they can on or after 5 December 2005 if they are living together as if they were civil partners. This has included publication of a leaflet 'Getting it right' which has been distributed to all Jobcentre Plus offices, pension centres, pension local services and Citizens Advice Bureaux. Additionally it has been sent to Doctors' surgeries and other organisations including the Terrence Higgins Trust, the Department for Constitutional Affairs, libraries and local councils. The leaflet has also been placed on the DWP internet site.

Our policy is not to ask for repayments from someone who has acted reasonably but has failed to appreciate that, although they have not entered into a civil partnership, their benefit is affected because they now form a same-sex couple. Departmental guidance has been amended to reflect this policy and the changes in the law. However, if a customer who is a civil partner or who lives with another person as though they were civil partners knows that this could affect their benefit they must tell the office that deals with their claim. If they fail to do so and they receive too much benefit they may be required to refund the amount that has been overpaid to them.

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