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|Council tax benefit expenditure|
|£ million, 2008-09 prices|
| Notes: 1. There may be differences between figures quoted in these tables and those quoted in Department for Work and Pensions Accounts. 2. Expenditure for 2007-08 reflects the latest estimated outturn, and not the amounts voted by Parliament. 3. Real terms figures have been calculated using Gross Domestic Product deflators updated after the 2008 Budget Report on 12 March 2008. Source: Local authorities' subsidy returns and DWP forecasts.|
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what guidance his Department has issued on the criteria for remitting payment of housing benefit directly to landlords providing accommodation for vulnerable people; 
We have not issued guidance on the payment of housing benefit directly to the landlord. If local authorities consider that the tenant is likely to have difficulty in relation to the management of their own affairs they may make payment to the landlord. For example, if the tenant is known to have a learning disorder or a drug/alcohol problem that would mean they are likely to have difficulty handling a budget, payment could be made to the landlord.
If local authorities consider it improbable that the customer will pay their rent, for example, if the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) authority is aware that the tenant has consistently failed to pay the rent on past occasions without good reason, payment might be made to the landlord.
Payment of housing benefit to the landlord is a statutory requirement if a tenant has built up rent arrears of eight weeks or more, or is having deductions from their Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance to pay off rent arrears. If this occurs, the local authority has the discretion to continue paying direct to the landlord when the level of arrears drops to below eight weeks. The use of an eight-week period ties in with the period of eight weeks in which a tenant can fail to pay the rent without being evicted.
In practical terms, this means that we advise local authorities to continue to encourage landlords to report any missing payments at the first opportunity. Where missed payments are reported, local authorities also continue to check whether there are any benefit issues outstanding, and seek evidence of any arrears outstanding through discussions with both landlords and tenants.
No assessment has been made of the merits of paying housing benefit directly to private landlords where their tenants agree. Choice is only one aspect of the LHA, but a key principle is responsibility. We want to turn housing benefit into an enabling benefit rather than passive support. This cannot be achieved without tenants taking personal responsibility for their rent.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what monitoring his Department is undertaking of the proportion of housing benefit paid directly to landlords because of the vulnerability of the tenant. 
Kitty Ussher: The Department is undertaking a review of local housing allowance over the two years from the commencement of its national roll-out in April 2008. As part of this review, we will be monitoring the proportion of housing benefit claimants in the private rented sector who have their benefit paid directly to their landlord due to their vulnerability.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 20 October 2008, Official Report, columns 145-46W, on income support: lone parents, if he will place in the Library a copy of (a) the letter sent to all lone parents that will be affected by the changes to the eligibility rules for income support coming into effect in November 2008, (b) a copy of the fact sheet for lone parents outlining the changes and (c) the leaflet and posters setting out the steps each lone parent should take; and if he will make a statement. 
Kitty Ussher: A copy of the October customer mailshot letter, the November customer mailshot letter and current copies of all three customer lone parent changes fact sheets, are now available and will be placed in the Library. The fact sheets are also available on the Jobcentre Plus website.
All three fact sheets are currently being revised in preparation for distribution from 24 November, copies of which will be available, along with copies of the leaflets and posters, in the Library by the end of November.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 20 October 2008, Official Report, columns 145-46W, on income support: lone parents, how many and what proportion of the lone parents who will be affected by the changes to the eligibility rules for income support coming into effect in November 2008 have been sent a letter outlining the effects that the changes may have on them, broken down by the smallest geographical area for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
Kitty Ussher: On 7 October, 97,950 letters were sent by mailshot to customers in Great Britain and to 5,057 customers in Wales, informing them of the introduction of quarterly work-focused interviews, and previously between 18 August and 22 September, a mailshot was sent to all 32,245 lone parents currently claiming disability premium, who may also be affected by the changes.
We will write to around 110,000 lone parents, with a youngest child aged 11 and over, across England, Scotland and Wales during week commencing 24 November telling them about the changes and how they may be affected.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the highest weekly payment of local housing allowance is that has been paid since its introduction; and in which broad market rental areas it was paid. 
Kitty Ussher: The Rent Service has confirmed that the highest weekly local housing allowance (LHA) rate they have issued is £2,875 per week, which has been quoted in recent press stories. This LHA rate was provided for Broad Rental Market Areas Central London and Inner North and West London.
As the Department has not received data returns from all local authorities for the whole of the period since the introduction of the LHA, we cannot confirm what the highest weekly amount actually paid out has been.
|Average pension credit (£ per week)|
Estimates are consistent with average weekly receipt estimates for 2007-08 from the Department's Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study.
DWP forecasts published spring 2008.
|Pension credit claims received||2006||2007||2008|
| Source: Management Information System Programme (MISP).|
Ms Rosie Winterton: The information that is available is shown in the following table. Information cannot be provided at a lower level than Government Office Region, averaged over three years. Figures are based on survey data and as such subject to a degree of sampling and non sampling error. Figures are based on the average of three years' data as single year estimates do not provide a robust guide to year-on-year changes.
|Average gross income of pensioner units where all members are state pension age or over, 2004-05 to 2006-07|
|£per week (2006-07 prices)|
1. Gross income is income from all sources received by the pensioner unit including income from social security benefits, earnings from employment, any private pension, and tax credits.
2. Based on survey data and as such subject to a degree of sampling and non sampling error. Figures are based on the average of three years' data as single year estimates do not provide a robust guide to year-on-year changes. United Kingdom figures are included on the same basis for comparison: further information for single years at a national level are available in the publication "Pensioners' Income Series 2006-07.
3. Figures have been rounded to the nearest £.
4. Figures are based on the average incomes of pensioner units (couples or singles) where all members are state pension age or over.
Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures are in place to ensure that pensioners in receipt of a state pension and SERPS are not disadvantaged compared to those entitled to pension credits. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Government provide a solid foundation of support for pensioners through the state pension system while focusing available resources on those who need most through targeted measures such as pension credit.
At the same time, pensioners in general are entitled to a range of benefits and concessions, including winter fuel payments; free TV licences for those aged over 75; and free bus travel, prescriptions, and eye tests for the over 60s.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effects of the banking crisis on the value of pension funds and their ability to make payments as they fall due; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The latest available data show that defined benefit scheme assets amounted to £768 billion at the end of September 2008, a decrease of 7.7 per cent. over the month and a fall of 4.8 per cent. over last the three months. This has left the aggregate funding position (total assets minus total liabilities) of defined benefit schemes at a deficit of £80.3 billion at end-September 2008.
In order to pay benefits already accrued under the scheme as these fall due, each defined benefit pension scheme is required by legislation to set a statutory funding objective to have sufficient and appropriate assets. This funding objective is updated regularly. Where such a scheme is under-funded it submits a recovery plan to the Pensions Regulator, and new recovery plans should reflect current economic conditions.
The data used are from the PPF 7800 Index using the monthly update for September 2008the PPF 7800 is published by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). Figures represent the latest estimated assets and net funding position, on a s179 basis, of almost 7,783 predominantly private sector defined benefit (DB) pension schemes in the UK. The s179 basis is, broadly speaking, what would have to be paid to an insurance company to take on the payment of PPF levels of compensation.
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