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Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance is issued by his Department to local authorities on issuing discretionary housing payments to (a) all those in receipt of housing benefit and (b) those in receipt of the single room rent. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) can be made, subject to an annual cash limit, where a person is entitled to housing benefit or council tax benefit and the local authority considers that person is in need of further financial help to meet any shortfall in their housing costs or council tax. The scheme is discretionary so it is up to local authorities to decide how they operate it, with any decisions on its use being made on a case-by-case basis.
DWP cannot prescribe the circumstances in which an authority must make payments, but guidance has been issued to all local authorities setting out the conditions for entitlement to an award. In deciding whether to award a DHP local authorities should consider the circumstances that give rise to a shortfall.
Mr. Plaskitt: The Departments recent review examined the shortfalls faced by many single room rent (SRR) claimants and considered why the majority of this group do not live in shared accommodation. Three aspects were examinedaffordability, accessibility and availability of shared accommodation.
On affordability we found that there are gaps in the market evidence on which the Rent Service set SRR rates and this may impact on affordability. However, changes to the way the Rent Service gathers market evidence brought about by the introduction of the local housing allowance (LHA) from April 2008, and a change in the SRR definition, should overcome the current evidence gaps and lead to an increase in SRR rates.
On availability we found that some areas of the country, particularly rural areas, appear to have a shortage of shared accommodation that falls within the definition currently used for the SRR. However, the introduction of the national LHA will address some of these issues through the move to a median LHA rate and the new Shared Room Rate. The latter covers a wider definition of shared accommodation than under the current SRR and will better reflect the range of accommodation available to tenants.
The findings on accessibility from academic research and some anecdotal evidence suggest that young people and housing benefit tenants are unpopular with landlords in the private rented sector which may restrict SRR customers access to shared accommodation.
Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what resources his Department has made available for (a) enforcement and (b) advice and guidance on health and safety at work in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. McGuire: The annual gross expenditure for 2002-03 to 2006-07 on enforcement (including investigations) and advice and guidance on health and safety at work by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions, is provided in the following table.
|HSE's gross expenditure( 1)|
|(1) To allow comparison across the years, the figures have been adjusted for years 2002-03 to 2004-05 to exclude HSE's Rail Safety function which transferred to the Office of Rail Regulation on 1 April 2006.|
(2) HSE measures the cost of enforcement from the point at which it decides to proceed with legal sanctions and the cost depends on a range of factors, many of which are not in HSE's control, e.g. whether a prosecution is defended. HSE investigates those incidents reported to it that fall within the Health and Safety Commission's incident selection criteria and this is one of the main activities from which enforcement is initiated and the costs are included in the table. Figures are based on historical work recording data from HSE's Field Operations Directorate, Hazardous Installations Directorate and Nuclear Directorate; and its Corporate Science and Analytical Services Directorate and Health and Safety Laboratory's expenditure in support of enforcement activities.
(3) Advice and guidance includes that given by inspectors in Field Operations Directorate. Also included are resources that HSE spends on providing information e.g. through campaigns, guidance through publications, staff in other directorates and its Infoline service.
Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many complaints his Department has received about the suitability of placements offered to people by Skills Training UK in the last 12 months. 
Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the (a) safety, (b) suitability and (c) value of placements offered to people by Skills Training UK; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: All welfare to work contractors, including Skills Training UK, are required to meet the quality and delivery standards set out in the contract specification, and are subject to contract management and monitoring by professional and trained procurement staff, in addition to any Ofsted inspection and audit.
The Department's contract management and supplier relationship processes aim to ensure that corrective measures are introduced if the provider does not achieve the level and standard of performance required. This includes the suitability and value of placements and contractual compliance issues, such as the safety of trainees during their placement.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of (a) children and (b) pensioners lived in households with below 60 per cent. of median household income in (i) England, (ii) Scotland, (iii) Wales and (iv) each region of England, (A) before and (B) after housing costs and (1) including and (2) excluding the self-employed in each year from 1999 to 2000. 
|Maternity allowance, new claim commencements in Great Britain|
Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred.
DWP Maternity Allowance Quarterly Statistics
Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many people had claimed maternity allowance but had yet to receive payments as of 28 February 2008; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what the average length of time was between the point at which an individual claimed maternity allowance and the start date of their payment in the latest period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply direct to your questions asking how many people had claimed maternity allowance but had yet to receive payments as of 28 February; and what the average length of time was between the time an individual claimed maternity allowance and the start date of their payment in the latest period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. This is something that falls within my responsibilities as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
As of 28 February we have 6,233 maternity allowance claims outstanding. We aim to clear maternity allowance claims within 20 days. We clear on average 350 claims per day, so this outstanding figure equates to 18 days of work, which is below the normal stock of work.
From March 2007 to February 2008 we received 89,626 maternity allowance claims and have cleared 86,563. The yearly average of cleared claims is 18.16 days to the end of February.
I hope this is helpful.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average income was of the (a) top and (b) bottom quartile of households with dependent children in each year since 1997. 
|Average (median) weekly equivalised incomes of the top and bottom quartile of households with dependent children since 1997|
|Before housing costs||After housing costs|
|Bottom quartile||Top quartile||Bottom quartile||Top quartile|
1. The information shown is for the United Kingdom from 2002-03 onwards. Earlier years are Great Britain only.
2. The income measures used to derive the estimates shown employ the same methodology as the Department for Work and Pensions publication Households Below Average Income (HBAI) series, which uses disposable household income, equivalised for household size and composition, as a proxy for standard of living.
3. Median incomes within the relevant quartiles have been presented. We have used median rather than mean as a measure of average incomes within the quartile. This is in line with the HBAI publication, where medians are used because the mean will be heavily influenced by the small number of households having very high or very low incomes.
4. Figures have been presented on both a before housing cost and an after housing cost basis. For before housing cost, housing costs (such as rent, water rates, mortgage interest payments, structural insurance payments and ground rent and service charges) are not deducted from income, while for after housing cost they are. This means that after housing cost incomes will generally be lower than before housing cost.
5. Amounts in the tables have been rounded to the nearest pound sterling.
Family Resources Survey, 2005-06
The figures show that households with dependent children in the lowest quartile and highest quartile of incomes have both seen their incomes grow over the last decade. Those families with dependent children in the lowest quartile have seen their incomes grow by a greater extent than those in the highest quartile.
Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 26 February 2008, Official Report, column 1388W, on social security benefits: Ireland, whether discussions took place on the time migrants have to be resident before claiming benefit in the meetings referred to. 
Mr. Timms [holding answer 29 February 2008]: The meetings referred to in the answer of 26 February 2008 to question 186429 were to discuss measures to prevent benefit fraud. No discussions took place at those meetings on the time migrants have to be resident before claiming benefits.
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