Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what results were achieved by the action team for jobs based in Leytonstone; what the cost was of the action teams work; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: Since its inception in October 2000, the Waltham Forest action team, which is based in Leytonstone, has engaged with 12,592 disadvantaged customers and has helped 3,424 people into work. The total cost, for the period April 2002 to March 2006, was £2,034,306.
Many of the practices and ideas developed by action teams have been integrated into Jobcentre Plus mainstream programmes and services. Examples include outreach work in local communities and the greater discretionary funding that is available to advisers.
Our future strategy will build on the success of action teams, and other community-based initiatives; including the introduction of a Deprived Areas Fund (DAF) from October 2006 and the Cities strategy proposed in our recent Green Paper.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the work of the Benefit Simplification Unit, with particular reference to (a) cost, (b) staffing and (c) performance to date. 
Mr. Plaskitt: When fully staffed, the Benefit Simplification Unit will have five full-time staff with additional input from senior officials. Gross costs during 2006-07 are estimated to be around £290,000. A secondee from Citizens Advice will also be joining the unit in June 2006 for six months, looking in particular at the customer interface.
Simplifying the benefits system requires action on many fronts, particularly among those developing and maintaining benefit policy and procedures. The Benefit Simplification Unit's role will be to act as a catalyst in driving forward simplification, challenging existing complexity and ensuring that the need to bear down on complexity is at the heart of future benefit design and delivery.
The unit published Simplification: Guide to Best Practice on 4 May 2006. A copy has been placed in the Library. The unit is now working to raise awareness of
the simplification agenda across DWP and to embed best practice. Progress will be reported on annually in the departmental report.
This took place when pension credit was introduced in October 2003. From then we committed almost £0.5 billion a year to increasing the amounts on which council tax benefit (and housing benefit) are based. This meant that around 2 million pensioner households either became entitled to council tax benefit for the first time or qualified for more help.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many council tenants there were in each year since 1997; how many of those tenants were on housing benefit; what the cost of council tenants housing benefit was in each year; and from what source the cost of such housing benefits has been met since it ceased to be a charge on housing revenue accounts. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The information is in the following tables. Since 2004-05, when responsibility for payment of rent rebate subsidy passed from the then ODPM to DWP, the cost of rent rebates has been a charge to local authorities; general funds. DWP pays subsidy to local authorities for expenditure incurred on rent rebates.
|Number of households in local authority rented accommodation|
| Notes: 1. Figures come from the Survey of English Housing, and are for England only. They can be accessed at www.odpm.gov.uk. 2. They relate to the number of households in local authority rented accommodation, not the number of people in local authority rented accommodation.|
|Percentage of households in local authority rented properties that are receiving housing benefit|
| Notes: 1. This information is taken from the Survey of English Housing, and is for England only. It is available at www.odpm.gov.uk. 2. As with table 1, figures relate to households, not people in local authority rented accommodation. The figures refer to financial years, rather than calendar years as in table 1.|
|Level of housing benefit paid to local authority tenants|
| Notes: 1. The figures presented are in £ million and reflect nominal costs for the whole of Great Britain. Figures relate to financial years. 2. They are total amounts paid to beneficiaries, irrespective of the source of funding, and include benefit spending reimbursed by DWP, spending on rent rebates financed within local authorities housing revenue accounts, and benefit spending financed from local authorities general funds. 3. They reflect the latest benefit-by-benefit estimate of out-turn, and not the amounts voted by Parliament. 4. Figures for 1999-2000 onwards are on a resource accounting land budgeting basis. There may be differences between figures quoted in these tables and those quoted in Department for Work and Pensions accounts. 5. Some figures for past years may have changed since previous publications owing to the incorporation of more up-to-date information. Also please note that from April 2003 responsibility for child benefit, guardians allowance and childs special allowance has been transferred to Inland Revenue. 6. Figures exclude asylum seekers from April 1999, since when the National Asylum Support Service has reimbursed DWP for benefits paid to asylum seekers. 7. This information is taken from the latest published housing benefit forecasts, available at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd4/Table8.xls|
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether young people under the age of 25 will receive a lower basic rate of the proposed employment and support allowance than those over the age of 25; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 25 May 2006]: The formal consultation exercise for the Green Paper A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work finished on 21 April. We are currently considering the responses and will publish a report in the early summer.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in reducing levels of official error in the benefit system, with particular reference to the work of the Error Task Force. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The latest available estimates for the value of official error in the benefits system as a whole cover the year to March 2005 and total £0.9 billion. These were published in the Departmental Resource Account in January 2006.
A task force was established in January 2006 to address the top value official errors in the main income-related benefits. The task force has identified a number of improvement measures which are now in the process of being implemented. The first set of official error figures covering the period of the task force are due to be published in summer 2007.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress his Department is making towards achieving compliance with Gershon efficiency targets; and if he will list the (a) reallocations of savings targets between different sections of the Department and its agencies, (b) arrangements for securing and monitoring service quality and (c) external audit of compliance with the targets which have taken place in pursuit of those targets. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Department is on track to meet its Gershon review efficiency targets. Progress against the targets has been reported in the Departments Departmental Report 2006 which was laid before Parliament on 11 May 2006.
Indicative year-end headcount milestones by DWP business are set out as follows. DWP SR2004 financial settlement was funded net of required financial efficiency savings. The Department for Work and Pensions spending plans for the SR2004 period are set out in the Departments Departmental Report 2006.
The Departments Efficiency Technical Note sets out how the Department will measure achievement of the efficiency targets from the Spending Review 2004 and departmental performance, including assurance arrangements for those measures. The Efficiency Technical Note is published on the Departments website.
|Headcount Milestones (ONS)|
|Business||Actual Headcount 1 March 2004||Actual Headcount 31 March 2006||Headcount Milestone 31 March 2006||Headcount Milestone 31 March 2007||Headcount Milestone 31 March 2008|
| Notes: 1. These profiles are indicative and subject to review. 2. Profiles rounded to nearest 50 FTEs. 3. Other Corporate and Shared Services includeID, CCSAD, LGSPG, Private Office, Communications and the ISBs. 4. The milestone figures do not include additional headcount (approx. 850) for new work (relating to Incapacity Benefits Reform, New Deal Plus Pilots, Administration of the Growth and 50/50/50 Funds and the Affordable Credit Deduction Scheme) that is outside of the Departments efficiency challenge. Glossary: FTEfull time equivalent WWEGWork, Welfare and Equality Group PSDProgramme and System Delivery IDInformation Directorate ISBsIndependent Statutory Bodies CCSADCross Cutting Strategy Analysis Directorate LSPGLaw, Governance and Special Policy Group Version: 7 rev|
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