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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 29 November 2007

Work and Pensions

Child Support Agency

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many of the Child Support Agency's cases concerned a child who was between the ages of 16 and 18 years in the last period for which figures are available. [165774]

Mr. Plaskitt: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 29 November 2007:

Children: Daycare

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to improve access to child care for lone parents who are being encouraged back to work. [164416]

Caroline Flint: We want to give lone parents the opportunity to plan a better future for themselves and their children and we know that child care availability is of vital importance to lone parents returning to work.

In June 2007 the stock of registered child care stood at over 1.28 million places, which is more than double the 1997 total, and the aim of the Government's national child care strategy for England is that by 2010 there will be a child care place for all children aged between three and 14, between the hours of 8 am to 6 pm each weekday, all year round. By that date there will be over two million sustainable child care places for children up to the age of 14. The strategy is given legislative underpinning by the Childcare Act 2006 which requires local authorities in England and Wales to secure child care to meet the needs of working parents in their areas. The Scottish Executive have committed to extending access to child care that meets the needs of working parents even though the legislative requirements of the Childcare Act do not apply there.

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Every Jobcentre Plus district has a child care partnership manager (CPM), with additional resource in new deal plus for lone parent pilot areas. CPMs have a key role to play in helping to improve access to child care and overcome child care barriers to work for unemployed parents and a fundamental part of this is gathering intelligence about the local child care market and customer needs, and using it to ensure that key issues for disadvantaged parents seeking to move into work are addressed within local child care provision.

Action is under way within Jobcentre Plus to ensure that all parents, not just lone parents, are routinely informed about formal child care and its benefits by Jobcentre Plus Advisers and signposted to further help and information, for example, from Children's Information Services.

Children: Maintenance

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he plans to take to ensure that maintenance payments calculated by the Childrens Maintenance and Enforcement Commission are appropriate in respect of both parents, with particular reference to costs incurred for daytime care of children. [167184]

Mr. Plaskitt: The principles of the basic maintenance formula under the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC) will be based on the structure of the simpler formula introduced in 2003 with percentage rates based on the non-resident parent's income and number of qualifying children. The percentage rates strike the right balance between the needs of the child and the other expenses that non-resident parents have to meet.

A reduction in the amount of child maintenance otherwise payable will continue to apply where the non-resident parent shares the care of a qualifying child for 52 or more nights a year. The Government have no plans to take account of daytime care. Childcare costs incurred by a working parent are recognised in housing benefit, council tax benefit and working tax credit.

Departmental Correspondence

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of inquiries received by his Department from the public were responded to within (a) one week, (b) 14 days, (c) 28 days, (d) two months and (e) three months in the last period for which figures are available; and in what percentage of cases it took (i) over three months and (ii) over one year to respond. [167377]

Mrs. McGuire: The information is not available.

Departmental ICT

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department pays per computer to EDS for professional services each month; and whether this sum includes call-out charges. [169209]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Department for Work and Pensions realigned its contract with EDS in 2005.
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Under the realigned contract, EDS owns, supplies and refreshes the equipment every three years, while the Department pays for the services it uses.

The annual service charge for a standard desktop PC is about £590 (or approximately £49 per month). This includes use and refresh of the equipment, standard software, and a comprehensive range of maintenance and support services, including call-out charges where applicable.

Departmental Manpower

Mr. Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the full-time equivalent headcount in his Department is; what the forecast full-time equivalent headcount for his Department is for (a) 2008-09 and (b) 2009-10; and if he will make a statement. [163982]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department's headcount as at the 30 September 2007 (date of the latest quarterly statistics provided to the Office for National Statistics) was l05,460 (full-time equivalents).

Data published for earlier quarters is available at:

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At this stage of the Spending Review 2007 planning process, the Department does not yet have a forecast headcount available for the financial years 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people aged (a) 30 to 39, (b) 40 to 49, (c) 50 to 59 and (d) 60 to 69 years have (i) applied for jobs, (ii) received interviews and (iii) gained (A) temporary and (B) permanent jobs in his Department in 2007. [165117]

Mrs. McGuire: This information can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Public Participation

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what opinion polls the Department has conducted of (a) the public and (b) staff since 27 June 2007; and what the (i) name of the firm employed to conduct the poll, (ii) purpose and (iii) cost to the public purse was in each case. [164945]

Mrs. McGuire: My Department has not conducted any opinion polls with staff since 27 June 2007. My Department has conducted the following omnibus research surveys which are outlined in the following table.

Project Contractor Purpose Cost (£)

NatCen Omnibus Survey (Module 1)

National Centre for Social Research

To examine attitudes to mental health and employment


NatCen Omnibus Survey (Module 2)

National Centre for Social Research

To examine attitudes to seeking psychological therapies for mental health conditions


NatCen Omnibus Survey

National Centre for Social Research

To examine attitudes to child poverty


ONS Omnibus Survey (Disability Module)

Office for National Statistics

Seeks opinion/views on a range of disability issues


Attitudes to state pensions

British Market Research Bureau

To explore attitudes to state pensions


Departmental Secondment

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many secondments of staff were made (a) to and (b) from his Department in each year since 1997; which organisations staff were seconded (i) to and (ii) from; how many staff were seconded in each year; for how long each secondment lasted; and what the cost was of each secondment in each year. [167277]

Mrs. McGuire: The information requested can be supplied only at disproportionate cost.

Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of disability living allowance claims were rejected in the first instance in the latest period for which figures are available; and of this percentage how many of these cases were overturned on appeal. [163330]

Mrs. McGuire: In 2006-07 53 per cent. of disability living allowance new claims received were unsuccessful. Information about the percentage of these cases that were overturned on appeal is not available.

Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the levels of higher rate of (a) disability and (b) mobility allowance were in each year since 2002. [165977]

Mrs. McGuire: The information is in the following table.

Disability living allowance higher rates
As at 1 April each year Highest rate care Higher rate mobility



















Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will give consideration to extending
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winter fuel payments to include all severely disabled people in receipt of the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance. [165980]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Winter fuel payments are paid to older people as a once a year lump sum payment in advance of winter heating bills. Generally, severely disabled people need help for their additional costs, which may include extra heating, all year round and not just in the winter months. Help is available for severely disabled people through the care and mobility components in disability living allowance and the disability premiums in the income-related benefits which have a substantially higher annual value than the winter fuel payment and are spread over a 52-week period. We always keep WFP under review.

Disability Living Allowance: Ritalin

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether parents can claim disability living allowance for children with behavioural problems which require prescriptions of Ritalin; and if he will make a statement. [163187]

Mrs. McGuire: Entitlement to disability living allowance is not linked to particular disabling conditions, but on the extent to which a severely disabled person has personal care needs and/or walking difficulties as a result of their disability. Parents can claim disability living allowance for children with behavioural problems, including those which require prescriptions of Ritalin, as long as their disability meets the above criteria.

Disabled: Fuel Costs

Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what proportion of disability living allowance is allocated to cover extra fuel costs incurred by disabled people; [165979]

(2) in what ways his Department makes provision for the extra fuel costs incurred by high lesion spinal cord injured people requiring a minimum temperature controlled environment. [165981]

Mrs. McGuire: Disability living allowance is paid as a contribution towards the extra costs faced by severely disabled people as a result of their disabilities. Depending on their need for personal care, supervision or help getting around, this could include people with a high lesion spinal cord injury.

Disability living allowance is not intended to meet specific extra costs, such as fuel, and recipients are free to spend the benefit according to their own priorities and requirements.


Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in developing arrangements for (a) sickness certification and (b) payment of benefits as preparation for dealing with any future pandemic influenza outbreak; and if he will make a statement. [164972]

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Mrs. McGuire: The precise characteristics and impact of an influenza pandemic will only become apparent as the virus emerges, so that the pandemic threat and the UK's level of preparedness are constantly evolving. DWP continues to be involved in drawing up and revising the UK pandemic flu plan, along with other Government Departments. Plans aim for the continuation of everyday activities as far as practicable, including the availability of sick pay and state benefits.

Appropriate changes to sickness certification, which balance the interests of patients, employers and the NHS, will be introduced as and when necessary to help achieve that aim. During an influenza pandemic, DWP will aim to continue services that support people into work, but will give priority to maintaining financial support. Customer payments, which are largely automated, will continue to be paid. DWP and HMRC have robust business continuity plans in place to ensure that the administration and key services that support these payments can be maintained during a pandemic.

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