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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of compliance rates for Child Support Agency maintenance paid by (a) manual means, (b) direct debit, (c) standing order, (d) maintenance direct, (e) deduction of earnings order, (f) deduction from benefits and (g) other means in the last 12 months; what proportion of total maintenance was paid by each method in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. 
In reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions about the Child Support Agency the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate he has made of compliance rates for Child Support Agency maintenance paid by (a) manual means (b) direct debit (c) standing order (d) maintenance direct (e) deduction of earnings order (f) deduction from benefits and (g) other means in the last 12 months; what proportion of total maintenance by paid by each method in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement.
The information requested on compliance rates can be obtained from table 10 of the March 2007 Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary Statistics. A copy of this is available in the House of Commons Library, or on the internet via the following link:
Maintenance direct is a private arrangement between parents, and the agency assures compliance unless the arrangement breaks down.
The proportion of total maintenance paid by each method of collection is provided in the attached table.
I hope you find this helpful.
|Proportion of total maintenance received in each month by method of collection: April 2006 to March 2007|
|Deduction from Benefit||Deduction of Earnin g/ Orders||Direct Debit||Manual||Standing Order||Maintenance Direct||Other|
1. Figures are rounded to the nearest per cent. and may not sum to 100 as a result.
2. Proportions calculated based on the value of collections in each category.
3. The number of new Deduction from Earnings Order/Request (DEO/R) decreased in December 2006. This is due to a fix on the new computer system to suspend 8,500 ineffective Deduction from Earning Orders on cases where employers had informed the Agency that the non-resident parent on that case was no longer in their employment. Many of these had compliance restored through DEO/Rs in January 2007.
In reply to your recent parliamentary question about the Child Support Agency the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.
You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps are being taken to reduce the backlog of cases awaiting action by the Child Support Agency.
Processing applications commences on receipt and at any time the number of unprocessed applications the Agency holds is negligible. An application is described as cleared once the maintenance calculation has been made and payment schedule established or if work on it is completed for another reason (e.g. if it is withdrawn).
Given the necessity of locating the non-resident parent, establishing parentage, obtaining income details etc. the Agency will always have a number of uncleared applications. The Agency's Operational Improvement Plan, announced last February, includes a commitment to reduce the number of uncleared applications and reduce the time taken to clear new intake.
Significant progress has been made in this area. In March 2007 the volume of uncleared new scheme applications stood at 156,000. This is a fall of 65,000 since March 2006, equivalent to a 29 per cent. reduction and the percentage cleared within 12 weeks has increased from 53 per cent. to 61 per cent.
The Agency is confident that it will be able to meet the new Secretary of State target to reduce uncleared new scheme applications to 140,000 and further increase clearance rates by the end of this operational year.
I hope you find this answer helpful.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the percentage of children living in poverty in (a) the UK, (b) the North East and (c) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. 
Mrs. McGuire: Specific information regarding low income for the UK is available in Households Below Average Income 1994/95-2005/06 (Revised). The report uses 60 per cent. of median income as the low income threshold. This threshold is the internationally recognised measure of poverty. The report is available in the Library.
The percentage of children in the UK living below the low income threshold stood at 22 per cent. in 2005-06. In the North East region, during the three-year period up to and including 2005-06, 28 per cent. of children were living below the threshold.
The figure for the North East region represents a fall in the total number of children living below the low income threshold of 18 per cent. in five years, which is broadly the same decrease as has been seen across the UK as a whole in the seven years since 1998-99.
Mrs. McGuire: Our child poverty targets are ambitious and rightly so; when this Government came to power, one in three children were living in poverty. Our labour market polices and the tax credit systems have helped to lift 600,000 children out of poverty.
We know there is much more to do and are committed to meeting the targets. Earlier this year DWP published Working for Children, our strategy for parental employment, and this year's Budget included measures which will lift an additional 200,000 children out of poverty. DWP is currently working closely with HM Treasury, the Department for Families, Children and Schools, and other Government Departments on producing a child poverty delivery agreement as part of the 2007 comprehensive spending review.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which foreign countries civil servants from his Department have visited over the last 12 months in order to study the design and impact of welfare reforms. 
Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 9 July 2007]: With a view to studying best practice in welfare reform, officials from my Department have visited a number of countries in the 12 months up to 30 June 2007, including Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Denmark and Germany.
Mrs. McGuire: We know that women living in families with no one in work are more likely to be living in poverty. All of our labour market policies are gender-neutral although some by their nature help more women than men. As a result of this Government's policies nearly 2 million more women are now employed than there were in 1997.
However we know there is still more to do. That is why we are piloting New Deal Plus for Lone Parents (NDPLP) in seven areas across the country, including Edmonton. As part of the package of help NDPLP provides, eligible people can claim an In-Work Credit of £40 (£60 in London) a week for up to a year when they move into work.
It is also why we have introduced the Deprived Areas Fund, and are introducing the City Strategy which provides tailored support in some of the most deprived areas of the country to all people in those communities with the greatest barriers to returning to work.
And with a lack of affordable child care being the greatest barrier to getting work for many women we are determined to continue to build on our policies, which, since 1997, have already resulted in a doubling of the number of child care places in England and, with extra help through the tax credit system, have significantly improved affordability. In addition, the London Childcare Affordability Project, which is jointly funded with the Greater London Authority, is testing the effectiveness of providing additional subsidies in the capital, where costs tend to be higher.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the ranking is of local authority housing benefit services by comprehensive performance assessment rating for each year since its introduction. 
Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the likely effect of the change to the use of the 0845 number for Jobcentre Plus on (a) Jobcentre Plus local offices and (b) their customers. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to respond to your question asking what assessment he has made of the likely effect that the change to the use of the 0845 number for Jobcentre Plus will have on Jobcentre Plus local offices and their customers.
Centralisation of benefit processing represents part of the modernisation of Jobcentre Plus services. It allows us to build centres of expertise which will enable us to improve standards of customer service, develop greater expertise in meeting customers needs and move work around the country to meet changes in local demand so reducing delays.
This way of working reduces benefit enquiry footfall in our local Jobcentre Plus offices, which means they can then concentrate their efforts in helping customers back to work.
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