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Measures taken include the introduction of the minimum income guarantee and its successor pension credit. The value of the safety-net we provide for the poorest pensioners has increased by over a third in real terms since 1997. We have successively raised the standard minimum guarantee in pension credit by earnings in every year since its introduction. Our commitments in the Pensions Act 2007 to continue to uprate the pension credit standard minimum guarantee in line with earnings over the long
term, and to reintroduce the earnings link to basic state pension from 2012, or by the end of the next parliament, will help secure these gains into the future.
In addition we have introduced winter fuel payments for those aged 60 or over, with a higher amount for those 80 or over. For winter 2008-09 we will make an additional payment of £50 for households with someone aged 60-79 and £100 for those with someone aged 80 or over. We have also introduced free television licences for people aged 75 or over and made above inflation increases in the basic state pension.
The Department for Work and Pensions has undertaken a range of research over the last five years to investigate the nature of poverty in older people. For example, research has been commissioned to better understand older people's experiences of poverty and the link between income poverty, deprivation and age. In working to ensure all pensioners take up their entitlements to pension credit, the Department has also undertaken research to explore the barriers and triggers to claiming pension credit.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate the Department has made of the average amount unclaimed by single pensioners aged 75 to 85 years old who are entitled to, but not claiming (a) guarantee credit and council tax benefit, (b) guarantee credit and housing benefit/local housing allowance and (c) guarantee credit, housing benefit/local housing allowance and council tax benefit, broken down by sex in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what estimate his Department has made of the average amount unclaimed by single pensioners aged 85 years or over of each sex entitled to but not claiming (a) guarantee credit and council tax benefit, (b) guarantee credit and housing benefit or local housing allowance and (c) guarantee credit, housing benefit or local housing allowance and council tax benefit in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in the decision-making process for the selection of an operator for the Post Office card account; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance his Department and its agencies have given to local authorities on the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 for tackling benefit fraud. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Specific guidance in the form of a fraud guidance circular was first issued to local authorities in September 2000, when the Act came into force. It has since been updated twice with further fraud guidance circulars issued in 2001 and 2003.
The Department's own Fraud Procedures and Instructions manual now has a specific section that details how both Department for Work and Pensions and local authority benefit fraud investigators should use the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. This guidance is made available for all local authority benefit fraud investigators through a secure website on the National Anti-Fraud Network.
Mrs. McGuire: Remploy has advised that of the 241 employees who opted to remain with Remploy, 161 are in work placements. The remaining 80 employees are involved in pre-employment activities, for example job search and preparation.
A further 1,772 employees opted to take voluntary redundancy or early retirement with a voluntary redundancy payment. Remploy is aware that around 200 have found alternative work, and is currently working with a further 360 former employees to find alternative work. The remainder have either advised the company that they do not require assistance from the company to seek further work or have not yet responded to Remploy's offers of help.
David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he plans to publish the Social Security Advisory Committee's report on the proposals contained in the Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008 relating to the backdating period for pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit claimants; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 15 September 2008]: The Social Security Advisory Committee's report on the proposals contained in the Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008 and the Secretary of State's response to the report were published as a Command Paper on 15 September 2008 and laid in Parliament, along with the Regulations, on that date.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make it his policy to reduce by at least half the time it takes benefits offices to deal with a reconsideration request; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Plaskitt: There are no plans to specifically reduce the time taken to deal with reconsideration requests. By their very nature, reconsiderations may take some time, particularly where further evidence requires investigation or corroboration. We believe the present arrangements strike a fair balance between speed and accuracy.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many complaints his Department has received in respect of the Belfast benefit delivery centre in the last 12 months, broken down by category of complaint; 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions asking how many complaints his department has received in respect of Belfast Benefit Delivery Centre in the last 12 months, broken down into category and what steps he is taking to improve communications between the Belfast Benefit Delivery Centre and (a) members of the public (b) local Jobcentre Plus branches. This is something that falls within responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
In total, 472 complaints were received in respect of Belfast Benefit Delivery Centre (BDC) in the last 12 months. They are broken down by category in the following table:
|Type of complaint||Number received|
Jobcentre Plus recognises the importance of good communications between the various parts of its business in providing a good service to its customers. Consequently we are always looking for new ways to improve communications, both internally and with members of the public.
For example, Belfast BDC has introduced the following improvements:
customers can now contact the centre by email via the Jobcentre Plus website;
an improved telephony system goes live on 19 August which it is hoped will improve communication with our customers;
post room procedures are being reviewed in an effort to speed up the process of post reaching its destination;
members of the public are informed of our services through our website, leaflets, telephone and by face to face contact; and
regular meetings are held between Belfast BDC and the jobcentres it serves to discuss ways in which to improve the service delivered to our customers.
Feedback from these meetings is cascaded to all staff to raise awareness of any issues.
Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many children lived in households that had been in receipt of (a) jobseeker's allowance, (b) incapacity benefit and (c) income support for more than two years at the latest date for which figures are available. 
Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of work-focused interviews which will be conducted in (a) 2009, (b) 2010, (c) 2011, (d) 2012 and (e) 2013, broken down by benefit sought. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 10 September 2008]: There is a statutory requirement to review all social security benefits each year and to increase certain benefits from April each year. The increase applied to most contributory and non-contributory benefits is calculated using the increase in the Retail Prices Index for the 12 months ending in the preceding September. This ensures that benefits keep their value in broad terms.
The inflation figures are based on a year-on-year comparison of prices. Therefore any recent fluctuations in inflation will be taken into account in the benefit increases that will take effect from the following April.
In addition to the annual uprating, the Chancellor also announced in his Budget 2008 speech that for winter 2008-09 an additional payment will be made alongside the winter fuel payment. Households with someone aged 60 to 79 will receive an additional £50 and households with someone aged 80 or over will receive an additional £100.
On 11 September 2008, the Government also announced a new £1 billion package of measures to help people cut their energy bills. Measures on offer deliver significant energy savingse.g. cavity wall and loft insulationand 11 million lower income and pensioner households are eligible for these free of charge. Also for winter 2008-09 cold weather payments will increase in value from £8.50 to £25.00. Cold weather payments are made to vulnerable people in receipt of qualifying benefits, including pension credit, if there is a period of very cold weather in their area.
(3) what estimate he has made of (a) the number of people involved in benefit fraud and (b) the value of such fraud in each (i) region, (ii) local authority and (iii) constituency in the latest period for which figures are available. 
|Global estimate of fraud across all benefits|
|Value of benefit fraud (£ billion)|
1. Comparable information is not available prior to 2000-01
2. There have been methodological changes, and new measurement exercises at various times.
The following table shows the amount of recoverable overpayments identified during fraud investigations since 1997-98. However, it should be noted that the information provided does not include fraud overpayments for local authority administered benefits, for which information is not available.
|Amount of recoverable fraud overpayments in DWP administered benefits|
Figures rounded to the nearest £1 million.
Fraud information by Sector.
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