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10 Oct 2006 : Column 741W—continued

Renewable Energy

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what his most recent estimated economic value of the renewable energy industry in Wales is; what estimate he has made of future growth for the industry; and if he will make a statement. [89030]

Mr. Hain: Given the complexity of the renewable industry sector, from research to development and final installation of individual facilities and associated infrastructure, it has not thus far been possible to assign it an accurate monetary value.

The Assembly Government has set renewable targets of 4 Terawatt hours by 2010 and 7TWh by 2020. If an estimated 800MW of on-shore wind capacity were implemented by 2010, this would create approximately £600 million of investment. In addition 190MW of consented offshore wind developments should produce around £190 million of investment (with consent for a further 750MW currently being considered). Construction is also starting on a £33 million biomass plant.

Work and Pensions

Departmental Carbon Emissions

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the total
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carbon emission from his Department's buildings in each year since 1997. [89422]

Mr. Plaskitt: Total carbon emissions for the Department of Work and Pensions, as reported in the annual Sustainable Development in Government reports since 2002 (the first full year of DWP operations) are as follows:








These figures are calculated by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and do not reflect the substantial volumes of renewable electricity secured by the Department during those years.

Figures for 2005-06 are currently being calculated and will be published in the next Sustainable Development in Government report.

Departmental Childcare Facilities

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what childcare (a) provision and (b) assistance is available to his Department's staff; [89419]

(2) which of his Department's premises have childcare facilities on site; [89420]

(3) whether there are waiting lists for places at childcare facilities which his Department provides for its employees. [89421]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department supports employees with children in a variety of ways. 1,139 employees receive support as follows:


Employees supported by holiday playschemes


Employees supported through nursery/créche places/subsidies


The Department's employees have access to 32 holiday playschemes, five supported nurseries/créches and nine on site nurseries. The on site nurseries are located in: Quay House Dudley, Clearbrook House Plymouth, Parklands Falkirk, Great Western House Birkenhead, Ashdown House Hastings, Spur M Surrey, Glasgow Benefits Centre Glasgow, Quarry House Leeds and Crown House Grimsby.

Five Child Support Agency sites have a dedicated waiting list for places in their nurseries There are currently 350 people (in total) on the waiting list. However these staff receive a subsidy in lieu. None of the other businesses retain a waiting list for childcare facilities.

The Department will also be implementing the Childcare Voucher (Salary Sacrifice) Scheme with the rollout of a new payroll system. This scheme will offer the advantage of supporting parents to make their own choices about where and what type of childcare they want for their child.

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Housing Allowance

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the proposed use of median rents to establish local housing allowance rates will (a) include all rents and (b) exclude significantly high and significantly low rents. [92350]

Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 9 October 2006]: Local housing allowance rates will be set at the median of the distribution of private rented sector rents in the rent officers’ market evidence database. The database does not include cases where the level of rent may have been influenced by the receipt of housing benefit.

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the likely impact of the local housing allowance on the welfare of benefit claimants and their dependants. [92354]

Mr. Plaskitt: Compared with the current housing benefit rules, we estimate that the majority of new claimants will gain under the local housing allowance. This will make a positive contribution to tackling child poverty and to the welfare of those without children.

The local housing allowance provides a more transparent housing benefit scheme and through direct payment to claimants, encourages greater financial inclusion. The transparency of the scheme will also help claimants to understand the maximum amount of housing benefit that they can receive, reducing the likelihood that they move into accommodation without realising that housing benefit will not cover the full rent.

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the likely difference between the average contractual rent and the local housing allowance in the private rented sector if such a scheme is introduced across the country. [92355]

Mr. Plaskitt: Any shortfall between the local housing allowance and contractual rent at the time of national roll-out of the local housing allowance will depend on the trends in local rent levels and the accommodation choices made by tenants. The trends in local rent levels up to the point of national roll-out cannot be predicted precisely and local housing allowance rates will vary across local private rent sector markets and different sizes of property. However, we estimate that the majority of new claimants at roll-out will gain under the proposed national local housing allowance compared with what they would have been entitled to under the current housing benefit rules. Additionally, as the rates will be set at the median market rent and published, claimants will have access to 50 per cent. of the rental market and will know their maximum entitlement in advance reducing the risk of unexpected shortfalls.

Differences between the local housing allowance and contractual rents will be one of the issues we will look at as part of the proposed two year review of the local housing allowance.

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Incapacity Benefit

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether specialist counselling support is available at job centres to assist incapacity benefit claimants back into work. [91311]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Gentleman with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 10 October 2006:

Jobcentre Plus

Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will raise the upper limit for funeral payments via Jobcentre Plus. [91683]

Mr. Plaskitt: Funeral payments from the Social Fund cover the cost of certain necessary charges in full; these include fees levied by burial authorities and crematoria. An additional sum of up to £700 is allowed for other funeral expenses, which gives the person arranging the funeral the freedom to select items or services they consider appropriate.

Although there are no plans to make changes to the amount allowed at this time the level of help is kept under review.

Pathways to Work

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures he has introduced to help and encourage employers to take on people with (a) a disability and (b) a mental health problem; what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Pathways to Work pilots in helping people with a mental health problem into work; what the characteristics are of programmes that have demonstrated effectiveness in helping such people into work; and if he will make a statement. [90606]

Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 11 September 2006]: Ensuring that opportunities are available for disabled people in the workplace is fundamental to our
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welfare reforms. Since 1997, we have set about implementing the most profound extension of disability rights this country has ever seen. In 2004, we extended the employment provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to provide protection against discrimination for an additional 600,000 disabled workers, including those with mental health conditions.

Engaging and supporting employers in retaining employees is also a key element to the Government’s Health, Work and Well-Being Strategy. We are putting together a cohesive and wide-ranging strategic action plan, developed in consultation with employers and led by employer organisations that are committed to increasing job opportunities for disabled people.

We are currently evaluating the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ early findings on the impact Pathways is having on claimants with mental health conditions.
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However, we continue to work closely with health professionals to improve our provision, such as the current review of the personal capability assessment, and to monitor the effect of Pathways to Work on specific groups, including people with mental health conditions.

As part of our Pathways to Work approach we have introduced new condition management programmes, delivered in partnership with the NHS. They offer a range of programmes to help people manage their condition and focus on their work options. Enhanced in-work support is also available in Pathways to Work areas to help people establish themselves in the crucial early period of a return to work. They allow former incapacity benefits claimants, and their employers, voluntary access to advice or specialist services including mentoring, job coaching or occupational health support.

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