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18 Dec 2006 : Column 1578Wcontinued
The discretionary housing payment scheme was introduced on 2 July 2001. The information for the financial year 2001-02 is only available clerically for each local authority, and providing regional totals would be possible only at a disproportionate cost. The available information is in the following table.
|Discretionary housing payment allocation for UK regions|
|Annual Government allocation for discretionary housing payments (£000)||Percentage of allocation used|
1. Amounts are rounded to the nearest thousand pounds.
2. Information is only available for Great Britain.
3. The latest available audited expenditure information for discretionary housing payments is for the financial year 2004-05.
Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many coal miners have made a claim for compensation under the Pneumoconiosis Act 1979 since 2002, broken down by area. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 7 December 2006]: The available information is in the following table.
|Miners paid under 1979 scheme|
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost of developing the on-line pension planner has been since inception. 
James Purnell: £11.3 million has been incurred on the web-based retirement planner to date.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what factors he took into account when setting the period of four weeks for paying pension credits into pensioners bank accounts while they are out of the United Kingdom. 
James Purnell: Pension credit is for people who live in Great Britain. If someone expects to be absent abroad for less than 52 weeks it can continue to be paid normally for no more than four weeks; or for up to eight weeks for someone accompanying a young person who lives with them and is receiving medical treatment abroad. It can continue to be paid for people who have gone abroad for medical treatment under the NHS for themselves for as long as they receive treatment. These rules are the same as the equivalent rules for income support.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will restore the 1981 value of the basic state pension. 
James Purnell: We have said that that the earnings link will be restored to the basic state pension. The objective is that this will be done, subject to affordability and the fiscal position, in 2012 but in any event at the latest by the end of the next Parliament.
By 2050 the amount of the basic state pension will roughly double in value compared with current policies.
Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department spent on recruitment advertising in each of the last three years. 
Mrs. McGuire: This information is not collated within this Department and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the rates of (a) applications for social fund discretionary awards by and (b) awards of social fund discretionary awards to (i) ethnic minority, (ii) elderly and (iii) other applicants. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The available information is in the following tables.
|Approximate application rate in 2005-06|
|Community care grant||Budgeting loan|
1. The number of applications cannot be split between pensioners and working age, but the number of decisions can be divided in that way. The number of decisions has been used as an approximation to the number of applications.
2. The approximate application rate has been defined as the number of decisions divided by the average qualifying benefit caseload (expressed as a percentage).
3. Crisis loans are available to anyone, whether on benefit or not, who cannot meet their immediate short-term needs in an emergency or as a consequence of a disaster. The potential caseload is unknown.
4. Some applicants made more than one application for a community care grant and/or budgeting loan during the year.
1. Social fund decisions: DWP social fund policy, budget and management information system.
2. Caseloads: Work and Pensions longitudinal study and five per cent sample data (from DWP internet tabulation tool).
|Initial award rate in 2005-06|
|Community care grant||Budgeting loan||Crisis loan|
The initial award rate has been defined as the number of initial awards divided by the number of decisions (expressed as a percentage).
DWP social fund policy, budget and management information system,
John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will extend the social fund eligibility criteria to allow people (a) on very low incomes and (b) moving as a result of domestic violence who are in need of immediate support to receive awards under the fund. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The social fund is kept under continual review, and there are no plans at this time to extend the criteria of the discretionary scheme.
Subject to satisfying the relevant criteria, people moving as a result of domestic violence canlike all other applicantsbenefit from all parts of the social fund, in particular, the community care grant and crisis loan schemes. People on very low incomes, subject to satisfying the relevant criteria, can benefit from the crisis loan scheme.
John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many credit recovery agencies were used to help recover defaulted loans from the social fund in each of the last 10 years. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Since April 2004, four private sector suppliers have assisted the Department in the recovery of debt, including outstanding social fund loans, from customers no longer in receipt of benefit. No suppliers were used prior to that date.
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