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30 Mar 2006 : Column 1201W—continued

Financial Assistance Scheme

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the administrative costs of the Financial Assistance Scheme have been in each year since its creation, including the costs of consultants and advisers. [61414]

Mr. Timms: The information is in the table.
Financial assistance scheme administrative costs

£ million
2004–052005–06
Net costs1.0604.115
Consultants00.135
Total costs1.0604.250

Home Computing Initiative

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost to the Department was of offering its staff participation in the Home Computing Initiative. [62455]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions had intended to launch a Home Computing Initiative in the winter of 2006, following
 
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implementation of a new payroll system. The only costs incurred have been the internal staff costs on the early stages of the project, which we estimate to be around £47,000.

Invalidity Benefit

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many recipients of invalidity benefit had their benefit reduced in each of the last five years; for what reasons in each case; and if he will make a statement. [45715]

Mrs. McGuire: Invalidity benefit was replaced by incapacity benefit in April 1995. There are a number of reasons why an award of incapacity benefit may be reduced. These include where a claimant has occupational pension income above £85 per week, where a claimant starts work which is not within the permitted work limits where a claimant's spouse's earnings increase to a point which extinguishes entitlement to an adult dependency increase, where a claimant is in hospital and where Child Support Agency payments are deducted from benefit. In addition in areas where Jobcentre Plus is rolled-out and in Pathways to Work pilot areas incapacity benefit can also be reduced where a sanction is applied following non-compliance with the conditionality requirements of the benefit. The vast majority of cases have more than one reason for a deduction and it is not possible to disaggregate the information about all these reductions.
Number of recipients with reductions made from incapacity benefit
Thousand
As at August each yearAll recipientsAll reductions
20011,581.5338.7
20021,587.7341.6
20031,574.8330.9
20041,549.5294.7
20051,500.6272.4




Notes:
1. All recipients" data is produced from WPLS 100 per cent. data. Rate reductions data has been produced from five per cent. sample data and rated up in accordance with WPLS totals.
2. Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred and expressed in thousands.
3. Figures may not sum due to rounding.
4. 'Beneficiaries' figures exclude SDA and IB credits only cases.
Source:
DWP Information Directorate, Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study 100 per cent. and five per cent. sample data.




Learning Disability

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will work with the voluntary sector to develop a common definition of learning disability to be used (a) by Jobcentre Plus and (b) for future monitoring. [47250]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department currently classifies customers with learning difficulties within the category of 'Mental and behavioural disorders' using the criteria internationally agreed in the ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision). At the moment we are
 
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unable to separate these data further into more specific conditions, but we are looking into the feasibility of doing so in future.

The National Benefits database therefore contains information on customers' periods of time on benefit and also records the associated health condition or disability using the ICD10 criteria.

Not everyone with a disability identifies themselves in the same way, nor do they have the same support needs, even if they are diagnosed with the same disability or health condition. Jobcentre Plus personal advisers are trained to discuss with each customer the affect their disability has on them and help them to identify the support most appropriate to them as an individual.

Jobcentre Plus collects a minimum of information about its customers, commensurate with the need to manage programmes and to better meet the needs of the customer. Collecting information about customers' health conditions or disabilities cannot always be relied upon to yield accurate information and even if it did, the information is not always relevant to the job finding process. In the interests of minimizing bureaucracy, and because we prefer to see each customer as an

individual with individual needs, we do not consider it appropriate for Jobcentre Plus to routinely ask customers for information which some might regard as unnecessarily intrusive.

However, as a result of changes made recently following consultation with Mencap, from 2006 information on learning disability and on learning difficulty will be identified separately for the Labour Force Survey. Until now, information about people with a learning disability or learning difficulty has been combined into one category. These data are collected independently of the information in the National Benefits database.

Ministerial Activities

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) public speeches and (b) official visits (i) he and (ii) his predecessor made on departmental business since 5 May 2005; and how many letters he and his predecessor sent in that period. [55716]

Mr. Hutton: Since the 5 May 2005 my predecessor made 19 public speeches and 18 official visits. I have made 14 public speeches and seven official visits. All speeches and visits were conducted in accordance with the ministerial code. The official visits figures do not include departmental visits without an external dimension.

The number of letters sent could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the performance of departments in replying to Members/Peers correspondence. The Report for 2004 was published on 6 April 2005, Official Report, columns 137–140WS. Reports for earlier years are available in the Library of the House. The report for 2005 will be published in due course.
 
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Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many individuals diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis are in receipt of disability living allowance (DLA); and how many such individuals were refused DLA in (a) 2003, (b) 2004 and (c) 2005. [59915]

Mrs. McGuire: The available information is in the table. Information is not kept about the main disabling condition in unsuccessful claims to disability living allowance.
Number(30) of people receiving disability living allowance at 31 August in each of the years from 2003 to 2005 whose main disabling condition was recorded as chronic fatigue syndromes—including myalgic encephalomyelitis/post viral

Number
200314,800
200416,300
200517,500


(30) Figures are in thousands, rounded to the nearest 100, and exclude cases where payment of the allowance has been suspended because, for example, the person is a hospital in-patient.
Source:
DWP Information Directorate: Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study.




Pensions

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will take steps to make state pension accrual easier for those in part-time work. [57886]

Mr. Timms: The Government welcome the broad framework of the Pensions Commission's second report which has set out a number of recommendations for the long-term reform of pensions. The Commission's report along with the report Women and Pensions: The evidence" have formed the basis for the National Pensions Debate.

As part of the debate, we are considering a range of options to help people build up better state pension entitlement, including whether we can do more for part-time workers. In taking forward proposals for reform we will be guided by the five tests we have set out: any changes must promote personal responsibility, be fair to women and carers in particular, and be affordable, simpler to understand, and sustainable. At this stage, the Government are ruling nothing in and nothing out.

We will be considering the feedback from the National Pensions Debate as we work towards national consensus and the publication of a White Paper on pensions reform in the spring.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his estimate is of the annual cost of extending the Pension Protection Fund compensation terms to all those who have lost their occupational pensions since 1997 and whose cases are covered by the parliamentary ombudsman's recent report on occupational pensions. [61857]

Mr. Timms: We estimate that the gross average annual cost of extending the Pension Protection Fund compensation terms to all those covered by the parliamentary ombudsman's report would average
 
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£160 million per year in cash terms over some 60 years. Annual costs would vary over time peaking at £300 million around the year 2030.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 3 November 2005, Official Report, column 1359W, to the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Jenkins), on pensions, what progress has been made towards making an estimate of the number of people who have lost their pensions due to firm insolvency since 1997; and whether this information is available for each (a) constituency and (b) region. [60773]

Mr. Timms: We estimate that since 1997 around 125,000 people have lost some part of their pension due to the insolvency of the sponsoring employer or where the employer no longer exists. We are now collecting information from pension schemes applying to the financial assistance scheme (FAS), which will enable us to provide actual data on the number of affected members in eligible schemes. However, as this information can only be provided by the pension scheme when close to winding up, it is likely to be some time before we have sufficient data to provide robust figures for each constituency and region.

As explained in my previous answer, based on our most recent data collection for the FAS, we know of around 70,000 non-pensioner members (in 380 schemes) that are potentially eligible for assistance from the FAS as a result of their schemes being wound up in circumstances of insolvency or where the employer no longer exists. In addition to these members we anticipate that a few hundred more schemes, including around 50,000 non-pensioner members and a small number of pensioner members, could come forward and be eligible for assistance. Some of these members may have suffered limited losses and would therefore not be eligible for FAS.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what meetings the Secretary of State has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer since 30 November 2005 to discuss future policy in relation to pensions; and if he will make a statement. [62034]

Mr. Timms: My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions speak regularly about a wide range of policy issues.

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the annual cost of implementing the Ombudsman's recommendations set out in his report Trusting in the Pensions Promise. [62321]

Mr. Timms: We estimate that the gross average annual cost of restoring pensions in full to all those covered by the parliamentary ombudsman's report would be £250 million in cash terms over some 60 years. Annual costs would vary over time peaking at £400 million around the year 2030.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what role the parliamentary ombudsman will play in negotiations on failed occupational pension schemes; and if he will make a statement. [62340]


 
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Mr. Timms: None. The ombudsman's remit is to investigate matters referred to her and report her findings to Parliament, rather than negotiation about public policy. With regard to the ombudsman's recent report on the security of final salary occupational pensions, I refer the hon. Member to my statement made on 15 March 2006, Official Report, columns 100–02WS.

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many events were organised by non-governmental organisations to complement events organised by his Department to mark Pensions Day on 18 March 2006. [61411]

Mr. Timms: This information is not available, but over 200 stakeholder packs have been downloaded from the National Pensions Debate website.


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