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Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effects of the ending of emergency payments of income support for mortgage interest on vulnerable mortgage holders; and what steps he plans to take through the benefits system to reduce the risk of repossessions among such mortgage holders. 
Kitty Ussher: Customers in vulnerable groups, and those with existing housing costs as defined under the previous rules that existed before 5 January 2009, will receive help with 100 per cent. of their eligible housing costs after a waiting period of 13 weeks under the new rules.
This compares favourably with the previous position because although such customers received 50 per cent. of eligible housing costs after eight weeks under the old rules, they had to wait 26 weeks before receiving 100 per cent. Such customers will now be better off overall by four weeks of full eligible interest in the first 26 weeks of their claims than they would have been under the rules that existed before 5 January. We believe that this more generous help, taken together with the increased capital limit from £100,000 to £200,000, will reduce the risk of repossessions.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will review the effects of the Working at Height (Amendment) Regulations 2007 on the normal workplace activities of firefighters employed by fire and rescue services; and if he will make a statement. 
Kitty Ussher [holding answer 9 February 2009]: The Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations 2007 changed the detail of the requirements under the Work at Height Regulations 2005 with respect to certain caving and climbing activities. As such, the 2007 regulations have very limited application to the fire and rescue service and no review is considered to be needed. In 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government published guidance for the fire and rescue service on the practical application of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 to fire and rescue service activities. The Health and Safety Executive expects that the fire and rescue service itself will keep this practical guidance under review to ensure it continues to represent best practice.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment has been made of the effectiveness of local employment partnerships in assisting jobseekers into employment; and if he will make a statement. 
Kitty Ussher [holding answer 9 February 2009]: Local employment partnerships (LEPs) aim to help 250,000 people into work between now and the end of 2010. So far, over 100,000 people have found work with over 18,000 employers through LEPs. It is too early to estimate the net effect of the policy on the movement of jobseekers from benefit into employment. A full evaluation of LEP will be carried out over the next two years.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) single pensioners and (b) pensioner couples will become eligible for (i) guarantee credit only, (ii) savings credit only and (iii) guarantee and savings credit as a result of the changes to the minimum income guarantee level announced in the Pre-Budget Report; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Following the announcement in the pre-Budget report of the proposed basic state pension and pension credit benefit rates for 2009-10, the number of pensioner households eligible to pension credit is forecast to remain broadly constant between 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps his Department has taken to (a) increase the take-up of council tax benefit and (b) simplify the procedure for pensioners to claim. 
Kitty Ussher: Council tax benefit makes an important contribution to the financial security of around 2.6 million pensioner households. We therefore want to ensure that, they get the money they are entitled to.
We are making good progress. When pension credit was introduced in October 2003, we invested almost £0.5 billion a year in increasing the amounts on which housing benefit and council tax benefit are based. This meant that around 2 million pensioner households became either entitled to council tax benefit for the first time or qualified for more help.
People on the guarantee credit or guarantee plus savings credit of pension credit (with or without the savings credit) can get maximum council tax benefit. They are treated as having no income or capital. People with savings credit only may still be entitled to some council tax benefit.
Since December 2005, people applying for pension credit have been able to access housing benefit and council tax benefit at the same time via one phone call to the Pension, Disability and Carers Serviceone
phone call, one number, three benefits. Pension, Disability and Carers Service staff completed a short claim form on the customers behalf, and sent it to them for signing and returning it to the local authority for processing.
From October 2008, we dispensed with the claim form. Pension, Disability and Carers Service now pass the information direct to the local authority. Previously around 40 per cent. of pre-populated council tax benefit claim forms sent to customers for checking and forwarding to the local authority were never sent to the local authority.
Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of individual applications to the Social Fund for (a) community care grants, (b) budgeting loans and (c) crisis loans were successful in each month from July to December 2008. 
|Discretionary Social Fund in Great Britain from July to December 2008|
|Percentage of applications processed which were initially successful|
|Community Care Grants||Budgeting loans||Crisis loans|
Figures do not include awards made after review.
DWP Social Fund Policy, Budget and Management Information System.
Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he last reviewed his Departments procedures for providing assistance to those moving in and out of short-term employment. 
Kitty Ussher [holding answer 9 February 2009]: Jobcentre Plus provides support for all jobseekers allowance claimants from day one of a claim. This can include advice on effective job-search strategies, matching people to the many thousands of new vacancies that come up every day and, where appropriate, help with writing a CV, filling in job applications, or with accessing opportunities to refresh or develop new skills.
We have introduced key changes to the jobseekers allowance rapid reclaim process. Jobseekers can now apply for benefit under the rapid reclaim process up to 26 weeks after a previous claim to the same benefit, rather than within 12 weeks as before. As much of the relevant information is already held, rapid reclaim cases
can be processed more quickly, though this is dependent on the jobseekers circumstances remaining the same as when they left benefit.
Temporary jobs can provide valuable work experience and can often be a stepping stone to more permanent employment. Rapid reclaim supports the incentive to take up employment, including short-term periods of full-time work, by easing concerns about reapplying for benefits should the work suddenly come to an end.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost in real terms to the public purse of paying winter fuel allowance in respect of all children under five in receipt of the higher care component of disability living allowance in each of the next five years. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Winter fuel payments are made to people aged 60 or over. The estimated annual cost of extending winter fuel payments in respect of all children under five in receipt of the highest rate care component of disability living allowance in each of the next five years is in the table.
|Estimated annual cost of extending winter fuel payments in respect of all children under five in receipt of the highest rate care component of disability living allowance|
|Total cost in each year: 2008-09 prices (£ million)|
The estimated annual cost is presented in real terms at 2008/9 prices. The estimate for 2008-09 is based on a £250 payment, which includes a one-off additional payment of £50 for this year. The estimates are based on a £200 payment for subsequent years.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Leader of the House how many hon. Members who retired at the (a) 1983, (b) 1987, (c) 1992, (d) 1997, (e) 2001 and (f) 2005 general elections were aged 65 and over at the date of retirement; and how long each had served in the House on retirement. 
|Members over 65 retiring||Length of service|
|Total||Stood down||Defeated||Under 9 years||9 to under 21 years||21 to under 33 years||Over 33 years|
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many equalities impact assessments his Department has undertaken in the last 12 month period for which figures are available; and what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of such assessments. 
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