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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many telephone calls have been (a) answered and (b) missed by the new telephone hotline service for social fund loans in the south-west since its inception; how urgent inquiries are dealt with; and why the service is not free to the user. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning how many telephone calls have been (a) answered and (b) missed by the new telephone hotline service for Social Fund in the South West since its inception; how urgent enquiries are dealt with and why the service is not free to the user.
Jobcentre Plus in the South West Region do not currently operate a hotline for the Social Fund. The South West region is planning to centralise Social Fund processing in Bristol. Some limited centralisation has already taken place, including moving the processing of Social Fund claims from customers living in Gloucestershire to Bristol.
Customers living in Gloucestershire who want to apply in person for a payment from the Social Fund normally approach their local Jobcentre office in the first instance. Staff at the Jobcentre will then telephone the Social Fund team in South Bristol. There are 10 extensions available for Jobcentre Plus staff to call, however if staff have problems getting through the customer may be given the direct telephone number to try again later.
Although direct calls to these numbers by customers is not free there are plans to introduce 0800 and 0845 numbers in 2007 as part of the centralisation of Social Fund work.
If customers wish to apply for a Crisis Loan for living expenses from the Social Fund they can do this in person at their local office by completing an application form, a decision is usually made on the same day.
I hope this is helpful.
James Purnell: The information is not available in the format requested. However, under our proposals, we estimate that almost 5.5 million women in Great Britain will be entitled to a full basic state pension by 2025.
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 5 June 2006]: Since 1997, claimant unemployment in Liverpool Riverside has fallen by 38 per cent. the number of lone parents on benefit has fallen by 24 per cent and the number of incapacity benefits recipients has begun to fall. The New Deal has helped nearly 5,000 into work. However we recognise that there is more to do, in Liverpool Riverside and the country as a whole.
Our recently published Green Paper A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work sets out our Cities Strategy proposals for piloting new initiatives to help local organisations work together to improve economic regeneration through skills, employment and health. From 2007, the Cities pathfinders will be charged with increasing employment and reducing social exclusion in our most deprived communities.
Each area will be asked to develop a consortium with a shared interest in working together to raise employment rates and improve the economy. This may include local authorities, employers, learning and skills councils, regional development agencies, primary care trusts and Jobcentre Plus. The key aim of this initiative will be to provide solutions that offer the maximum degree of flexibility, so that local areas can provide local solutions to local problems.
This approach will provide a real focus for local efforts to help people move back into work, so that the current patchwork of programmes and support, provided by a number of organisations can be delivered in a more integrated, individually-focused and locally responsive way.
Mr. Jim Murphy: Our welfare to work programmes have been successful in substantially reducing youth unemployment and, since 1997, long-term youth unemployment has been virtually eradicated. In addition, youth claimant unemployment is close to its lowest level for 30 years. In Hartlepool, youth unemployment has been cut by 32 per cent. since 1997 and long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.
Our New Deal for Young People programme continues to contribute to this success, having already helped more than 666,000 young people into work, including 2,320 in Hartlepool, 84 per cent. of whom have gained sustained employment.