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21 July 2008 : Column 857W—continued


While it would be possible to calculate an average payment from these figures, it would not be meaningful due to a number of distorting factors. These include:


21 July 2008 : Column 858W

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what legal costs have been incurred by his Department in relation to the Financial Assistance Scheme in each month since the scheme was established; and if he will make a statement. [216587]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: There have been no specific legal costs incurred by the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to the operation of the financial assistance scheme. Legal advice on policy and legislation governing FAS assistance levels is provided by departmental lawyers. To disaggregate this advice from other areas of advice would give rise to disproportionate cost.

Housing Benefit

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was paid in housing benefit in the UK in each of the last three years. [219874]

Mr. Plaskitt: Information regarding Northern Ireland is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The information for Great Britain is in the table.

Housing benefit expenditure in Great Britain
(outturn—£ million)

Nominal terms Real terms 2008-09 prices

2004-05

13,158

14,698

2005-06

13,928

15,237

2006-07

14,840

15,782

Notes:
1. Information sourced from local authority claims for housing revenue account subsidy and housing benefit subsidy.
2. Figures to 2005-06 are taken from the final audited subsidy claims submitted to the Department by each local authority.
3. Figures for 2006-07 are not yet audited, and represent provisional out-turn for the year.
Source:
DWP expenditure tables.

Benefit expenditure information is available online at

Local authority expenditure Information is available online at

Incapacity Benefit: Bedfordshire

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many incapacity benefit claimants there were in South West Bedfordshire constituency in November 2007. [220266]

Mrs. McGuire: At November 2007, there were 2,900 claimants of incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance in South West Bedfordshire parliamentary constituency.

Incapacity Benefit: Tamworth

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of the working age population of Tamworth constituency received incapacity benefit in the latest period for which figures are available. [220105]


21 July 2008 : Column 859W

Mrs. McGuire: At November 2007, an estimated 5.7 per cent. of the working age population in Tamworth parliamentary constituency were incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance claimants.

Pension Credit

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the estimated additional annual costs (1) of allowing the pension credit assessed income period to continue automatically after the age of 80 are; and if he will make a statement; [219210]

(2) of his Department's proposals to allow pension credit to be retained for up to 13 weeks of a temporary absence abroad are; and if he will make a statement. [219211]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The proposals to allow pension credit to be retained for up to 13 weeks of a temporary
21 July 2008 : Column 860W
absence abroad and the introduction of an indefinite assessed income period for those pension credit customers aged 80 or over or who have an assessed income period spanning their 80th birthday (benefiting most customers aged 75 or over) are part of a package of pensions measures that will make claiming benefit entitlements simpler and less intrusive and deliver extra support to pensioners. This package includes the introduction of a more automatic claims process for housing benefit and council tax benefit claims made over the phone with pension credit claims, which will benefit around 50,000 pensioners over the next few years. The costs and savings associated with wider pension measures along with the costs of the proposed changes to rules on temporary absence abroad in pension credit and introducing an indefinite assessed income period for those aged 80 or over are set out in the following table.

Estimates of costs/savings: 2007-08 prices
£ million

2008 2009 2010 2015 2020 2030 2040 2050

Total pension measures

575

-25

0

0

75

150

200

250

Of which:

Absence abroad

1.0

2.0

2.0

1.5

1.5

1.5

1.5

1.5

Indefinite assessed income periods for those aged 80 or over

-3.5

-2.5

-0.5

-0.5

-0.5

-0.5

-0.5

Notes:
1. Negative figures represent net savings.
2. The total set of wider pensions measures includes the simplification package and spending on other pension measures in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11.
3. Figures relate to financial years.
4. Estimates represent combined administrative and benefit costs/savings.
5. Total estimates for the wider portfolio of pensions measures have been rounded to the nearest £25 million.
6. Estimates of pension credit absence abroad changes and the indefinite assessed income periods for those aged 80 or over have been rounded to the nearest £0.5 million.
7. Indefinite assessed income periods for those aged 80 or over are due to be introduced from April 2009 so no costs are shown in 2008. On the introduction of pension credit assessed income periods (AIPs)—where appropriate—were set for five and seven years which accounts for the high volume of AIPs reaching maturation in 2009-10.
8. Other pension measures include the up-rating of the pension credit standard minimum guarantee this year by 4.2 per cent. (more than the earnings commitment made for pension credit over the long term, the relevant average earnings figure was 3.5 per cent.) and the one-off additional amount with the winter fuel payment for the winter of 2008-09.
9. Simplification package includes the following measures: Automatic forwarding of housing benefit/council tax benefit claim details taken alongside a pension credit claim to the local authority, without the need for a signed claim form; reduction of the maximum housing benefit/council tax benefit backdating period from 12 to three months; reduction of the maximum pension credit time for claiming period from 12 to three months; increasing the length of time pension credit recipients may be abroad without losing their entitlement from four to 13 consecutive weeks; and the introduction of an indefinite assessed income period for those pension credit customers aged 80 or over or who have an assessed income period spanning their 80th birthday (benefiting most customers aged 75 or over).
10. Estimated costs and savings are consistent with the 2008 Budget settlement but it should be noted that they are based on a set of assumptions and are subject to change as new data become available.
11. Estimated costs/savings of the pension credit absence abroad and indefinite assessed income period measures have been projected forward from 2011 in line with the growth in the long-run forecast of expenditure on pension credit.
Source:
DWP modelling

Pension Credit: Finance

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost saving from the proposed reduction in the maximum period for claiming backdated pension credit from 12 to three months; and if he will make a statement. [214000]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The proposal to change the length of time allowed for customers to claim pension credit (known as backdating) from 12 to three months is part of a package of pensions measures that will make claiming benefit entitlements simpler and less intrusive and deliver extra support to pensioners. This package includes the introduction of a more automatic claims process for housing benefit and council tax benefit claims made over the phone with pension credit claims, which will benefit around 50,000 pensioners over the next few years. The costs and savings associated with wider pension measures along with the savings produced by the proposed changes to the time allowed for claiming pension credit are set out in the following table.


21 July 2008 : Column 861W
Estimates of costs/savings
£ million, 2007-08 prices

Total pension measures Of which: Pension credit backdating

2008

575

-55

2009

-25

-100

2010

0

-95

2015

0

-70

2020

75

-65

2030

150

-55

2040

200

-45

2050

250

-40

Notes:
1. Negative figures represent net savings.
2. The total set of wider pensions measures includes the simplification package and spending on other pension measures in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11.
3. Figures relate to financial years.
4. Estimates represent combined administrative and benefit costs/savings.
5. Total estimates for the wider portfolio of pensions measures have been rounded to the nearest £25 million.
6. Estimates of pension credit backdating have been rounded using the following convention: figures over £100 million have been rounded to the nearest £10 million and figures between £10 million and £100 million rounded to the nearest £5 million.
7. Other pension measures include the up-rating of the pension credit standard minimum guarantee this year by 4.2 per cent. (more than the earnings commitment made for pension credit over the long term, the relevant average earnings figure was 3.5 per cent.) and the one-off additional amount with the winter fuel payment for the winter of 2008-09.
8. Simplification package includes the following measures: Automatic forwarding of housing benefit/council tax benefit claim details taken alongside a pension credit claim to the local authority, without the need for a signed claim form; reduction of the maximum housing benefit/council tax benefit backdating period from 12 to 3 months; reduction of the maximum pension credit time for claiming period from 12 to 3 months; increasing the length of time pension credit recipients may be abroad without losing their entitlement from 4 to 13 consecutive weeks; and the introduction of an indefinite assessed income period for those pension credit customers aged 80 or over or who have an assessed income period spanning their 80th birthday (benefiting most customers aged 75 or over).
9. Estimated costs and savings are consistent with the 2008 Budget settlement but it should be noted that they are based on a set of assumptions and are subject to change as new data become available.
10. Estimated costs/savings of the pension credit backdating measure has been projected forward from 2011 in line with the growth in the long-run forecast of expenditure on pension credit.
Source:
DWP modelling

21 July 2008 : Column 862W

Pension Credit: Overpayments

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 26 November 2007, Official Report, column 138W, on pension credit: overpayments, if he will break down (a) how much in overpayment was caused by and (b) how many cases of (i) fraud and (ii) error there were in each year. [193702]

Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 13 March 2008]: DWP is committed to reducing fraud and error across the benefits system, including pension credit, while at the same time increasing the identification, correction and recovery of overpayments. In line with these aims, a comprehensive error reduction strategy is in place and stretching targets have been set for the recovery of overpayments. As a result, in 2006-07, DWP identified record levels of overpayments and achieved record levels of overpayment recoveries.

Information on the level of identified overpayments in pension credit is in the following table. The trend in cash values reflects: our increasing efforts to identify cases of fraud and error; clearance in 2006-07 of a significant number of outstanding cases from the previous year, and the fact that for each year some of the overpayments dated back to the introduction of pension credit in 2003.

Identified pension credit overpayments broken down by fraud and error
Amount of overpayment Number of cases

Fraud (£) Customer error (£ million) Official and other error (£ million) Fraud Customer error Official and other error

2004-05

66,000

2.2

4.2

73

6,700

22,000

2005-06

150,000

4.8

11.7

100

8,800

74,000

2006-07

565,000

33.4

35.7

275

59,000

109,000

Source:
DWP Debt Management.

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