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David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what (a) grants and (b) training schemes are available through his Department for people (i) over 55 years old and (ii) in retirement to learn new job skills. 
Mr. Plaskitt: People who are claiming a benefit or receiving state pension may take up training and retain their benefit, although people on jobseekers allowance may only take up training part-time. Currently people who are on incapacity benefit for less than 28 weeks, and who are in receipt of housing benefit and council tax benefit, are not entitled to take full-time training to learn new job skills without losing eligibility for that benefit. However, we are revising this situation following the announcement made in Opportunity, Employment and Progression: making skills work published jointly with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in November 2007. This announcement stated our intention to remove the 16 hour study rule in housing benefit completely for short-term recipients of incapacity benefit; so that they, like long term incapacity benefit claimants, will always be able to take up the training they need to enable them to return to work.
All people below state pension age and claiming relevant benefits can access Department for Work and Pensions training schemes depending on whether they meet other eligibility criteria: for example, someone could be referred to an Employability Skills training programme if they had been assessed as having low literacy, language and numeracy skills and wanted to combine improving these with employability skills.
New deal 50 plus is the only Jobcentre Plus programme directly focused on supporting people aged 50 and over into employment. The programme offers personal adviser support and access to a training grant, worth up to £1500.
The training grant is currently available when an individual aged 50 and over and claiming a qualifying benefit takes up employment after attending a new deal 50 plus interview after six months of benefit dependency. It offers in-work training support to help individuals update existing skills or gain new skills related to their work for up to two years after starting work. The grant can be used for training provided by an employer or through an external training provider or other educational establishment.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people on jobseekers allowance (a) were sanctioned and (b) had their claim terminated because they went abroad in each of the last 10 years. 
|Jobseeker s allowance claimants who have flowed-off benefit and gone abroad, Great Britain, December 1998 to December 2007|
|As at December each year||Claimants who have gone abroad|
Number of claimants rounded to the nearest five.
Count of unemployment-related benefits, Jobcentre Plus computer systems.
Mr. Plaskitt: Jobcentre Plus training and guidance to staff supports and reinforces the advice given to jobseekers. The ES40 leaflet Jobseekers Allowance and getting back to work, given to all jobseekers at their new jobseeker interview, sets out the requirement that the jobseeker must tell Jobcentre Plus if they change their address or go away from home, even if it is for a day. This message is further reinforced in the forms that jobseekers are required to complete to notify such absences.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people claimed jobseekers allowance in (a) the UK, (b) the North East, (c) the Tees Valley and (d) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland in each year since 1997. 
|Number of jobseeker s allowance claimants|
|As at January each year||UK||North East||Tees Valley||Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland|
1. Figures are rounded to the nearest five.
2. Tees Valley consists of the local authorities of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton.
Count of unemployment-related benefits, Jobcentre Plus computer systems (including clerically held cases).
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to ensure that people who leave employment for the purposes of obtaining jobseekers allowance are not eligible for such allowance. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The reason that a persons job came to an end is ascertained from evidence provided by the person themselves and from their employer. When we have evidence that someone may have left employment voluntarily or was dismissed for misconduct we can impose a benefit sanction and prevent jobseekers allowance being paid for up to 26 weeks. A sanction means that no jobseekers allowance is payable for that period.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that young adults with learning difficulties in receipt of jobseekers allowance, who cannot read or understand forms or use telephones, are able to receive personal help from his Department. 
Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 29 February 2008]: 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. Member with the information requested.
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what action is being taken to ensure that young adults with learning difficulties in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance, who cannot read, understand forms or use telephones are able to receive personal help from the Department. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
If a customer cannot read, understand forms or use telephones then a face-to-face meeting at the customers local Jobcentre can be arranged at which the customer will be helped to make their claim for benefit and, where appropriate, be offered support to seek work. Customers making use of this facility may also wish to involve their own advocate or support agency in this process.
All of our customers will meet a Financial Assessor when they attend their New Jobseeker Interview or Work-Focused Interview. This allows the Financial Assessor the opportunity to assess the individual needs of the customer and offer any further help they need in order to make a successful claim.
For those customers with a disability who are ready to start looking for work, we have a network of Disability Employment Advisers who offer help to those who need and want a more in-depth support to find and retain employment. Disability Employment Advisers have received specialist training to allow them to help people with more complex barriers to employment and can offer help with completing applications forms as well as acting as an advocate for the customer in approaches made to potential employers.
Disability Employment Advisers can also help customers apply for help through a range of disability programmes including Access to Work, which can fund the cost of an advocate to attend a job interview with someone with learning difficulties.
We provide more personal support for vulnerable people who genuinely need an increased level of support and we are constantly looking at ways of improving services to our vulnerable customers.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much has been paid to homeowners in receipt of jobseekers allowance for the purpose of making mortgage repayments in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 29 February 2008]: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer I gave on 11 December 2007, Official Report, column 464W, to the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Danny Alexander).
Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance his Department plans to issue to local authorities on the up-take of bank accounts during the roll-out of local housing allowances; and whether such guidance will be issued by April 2008. 
Mr. Timms [holding answer 29 February 2008]: The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has already provided a guidance manual and other support and advice to help local authorities with the introduction of the local housing allowance in April 2008. This support has included the provision of advice to local authorities on how best they can support their customers in opening bank accounts.
DWP is leading a campaign to help financially excluded people access free money advice. The Now Lets Talk Money campaign will direct them to suitable bank accounts, local trusted sources of affordable credit and confidential advice.
Mr. Timms: The lone parent personal adviser role is one of a number of specialist adviser roles within Jobcentre Plus. Advisers are required to complete generic adviser training which includes e-learning, mentoring and workbooks. They also complete specialist modules of learning specific to the customer group they will be working with, for example lone parents. To support this training, departmental guidance is available on the departmental intranet site which covers all aspects of business process, regulations, procedures and best practice.
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