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Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many (a) BlackBerrys and (b) other mobile telephones have been provided to (i) Ministers, (ii) special advisers and (iii) civil servants in his Department in each year since 2005; 
(2) how much has been spent on (a) the purchase of and (b) bills for (i) BlackBerrys and (ii) other mobile telephones for (A) Ministers, (B) special advisers and (C) civil servants in his Department in each year since 2005; 
Jonathan Shaw: The Department does not purchase BlackBerrys, mobile telephones or laptops. They are provided under contractual arrangements with one of the Departments IT suppliers. The average number in use and cost of providing the service since 2007-08 is as follows:
There are currently four BlackBerrys allocated to Ministers and four allocated to special advisers. There is one mobile telephone allocated to a Minister and one allocated to a special adviser. There are five laptops allocated to Ministers and four allocated to special advisers. When Ministers or special advisers leave the Department all IT and telephony is returned and then reallocated to other users in the Department. Records are therefore only available for current users.
Jonathan Shaw: Directgovs vision is to be the citizen-focused digital channel for Government offering a high quality experience for customers by delivering information and services that meet most of their needs within the site in a consistent and accessible style. It will be driven by citizen needs and will be easy and interesting to use.
Directgov will be at the heart of the relationship between Government and citizen in the digital space. Directgov has the following strategic aims, split into what Directgov will be in future for the citizen, and for the Departments.
Easy and effective digital access to all the public services and information they need, when and where they need it;
Trusted delivery of tailored services to give citizens a simple and convenient interaction with Government;
New ways of communicating, utilising strategic partnerships, community groups and social media to provide better interaction with Government.
Trusted digital delivery channels that encourage people to interact with Government online;
The ability to connect services and information across Government into logical customer journeys to provide better citizen experience;
Advice and guidance on the most cost-effective and appropriate ways to deliver services through digital channels in the context of the wider channel strategy for Departments.
For the online channel, the two priorities for the CSR07 period are maintenance of an increasing breadth of day-to-day service delivery; and the completion of web convergence as websites with citizen-facing content are rationalised and content moved to Directgov and businesslink.gov.uk
For mobile and television, the challenges lie in matching the right service, target audience and channel together, and in building enabling capabilities that can be made available for service providers to use.
Directgov are working with intermediaries who can offer mediated access to those that are currently digitally excluded, starting with the nine major regional UK online centres across the UK. UK online centre staff will encourage customers to use Directgov, and will guide new users through the process. Once they have completed their initial use of Directgov, users will be invited to complete an online survey. This will allow Directgov to collect information on new users experiences with Directgov so that we can continue to improve the customer experience.
Research has shown that Directgovs TV service on Sky and Virgin increases reach to the socially excluded citizen. Viewers of Directgovs interactive television are older (69 per cent. over 35; 47 per cent. over 45), not working (57 per cent.) and with nearly half (45 per cent.) rarely (i.e. less than once a week) or never using the internet.
The recent launch on Freeview and on analogue TV via Teletext enables citizens who do not subscribe to a TV provider to access Directgov content via Freeview Teletext, which means that Directgov is now available to virtually all TV viewers.
Directgov is reaching new audiences on web and non-web enabled kiosks, laptops and PCs in a diverse range of locations, including health centres, Age Concern and an Army community centre as part of the Starthere project with NHS Choices. All user journeys are tracked and there is also a questionnaire that asks about the user experience and peoples background. The final report will be available in June 2009.
Directgov is also working closely with CLG on the Digital Inclusion Action Plan and the Digital Britain Report to ensure that it is involved in the strategic direction of these programmes. These proposals are likely to include closer working with partnership organisations, such as CAB and childrens centres.
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of the likely effects of the recession on levels of employment in (a) rural and (b) urban areas. 
Mr. McNulty: The Department does not forecast levels of employment or unemployment. We have not yet assessed the impact of the recession on employment rates at local authority district level. Although employment data are available by local authority districts, these data come from the Annual Population Survey (APS) and will be susceptible to sample fluctuation. We use the APS for sub-regional analysis because it has a larger sample size and is more robust at a sub-regional level than the quarterly Labour Force Survey (LFS).
In addition, the latest APS data available at present cover October 2007 to September 2008, so it does not
provide an up-to-date assessment of the impact of the recession. As a short term indicator we think that the best measure to use is the claimant count.
Analysis of claimant count data between February 2008 and February 2009 by local authority district shows that local authority districts that can be classified as rural have experienced larger percentage increases in the claimant count, but in absolute terms these areas tend to have a lower proportion of their working age population claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), and on average the percentage point increase in the proportion of working age residents claiming JSA is similar across rural and urban areas.
The percentage increase in claimant count, average claimant count rate, and the percentage point increase in claimant count rate for local authority districts in England aggregated according to DEFRA's classification is shown in the table.
|Local authority classification||Average claimant count Rate (Feb 08)||Average claimant count rate (Feb 09)||Percentage point increase in average claimant count rate (Feb 08 -09)||Percentage increase in claimant count (February 08-09)|
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what form sanctions will take in the progression to work pathfinders for participants who fail to engage with support without good cause. 
Jonathan Shaw: Within the progression to work pathfinders we plan to test the key principles of the model of escalating sanctions set out in Realising Potential: A Vision for Personalised Conditionality and Support, an independent review published by Professor Gregg in December 2008. In the White Paper Raising Expectations And Increasing Support: Reforming Welfare For The Future (Cm7506), published in December 2008, we set out our intention to test an escalating sanctions model and are currently working up the detail of how this model will operate.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many payments have been made in each region to date under the employers' golden hello scheme announced by his Department on 12 January 2009. 
Mr. McNulty: We announced on 12 January that a new six month offer would be launched in April 2009. That offer has been in place since 6 April 2009. Information on payments will be available at the appropriate time.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effect of housing benefit payments to tenants of private rented accommodation since the introduction of the latest allowance; and if he will make a statement. 
Kitty Ussher [holding answer 20 April 2009]: The Local Housing Allowance was rolled out nationally in April 2008 for customers in the deregulated private rented sector who make a new claim for housing benefit and for existing customers who move address. National implementation followed extensive and independent evaluation of the introduction of Local Housing Allowance in nine pathfinder authorities from 2003-04 as well as testing of operational readiness in a further nine pilot areas in 2005.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps his Department has taken to improve support for victims of workplace accidents following convictions under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. 
Jonathan Shaw: HSE has a well-established approach to supporting the bereaved and the victims of accidents at work. This is set out in HSEs policy, which is available on its web pages. In addition, HSE produces printed packs for bereaved families and information leaflets for the bereaved and victims of accidents and occupational ill health. These include explanations of HSEs role, the investigation and criminal prosecution process, access to information collected by HSE for use in compensation claims and other organisations that can help and support relatives through their grief. These are updated as appropriate; the packs for the bereaved in both Scotland and in England and Wales have been recently updated. HSE also contributes to support through the work-related death protocol, which involves HSE, local authorities, ACPO, British Transport police, ORR and CPS.
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what account the business plan of Jobcentre Plus for 2009-10 has taken of the measures proposed in the Welfare Reform Bill. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
The Department regularly reviews the capacity and capability of Jobcentre Plus to deliver effectively the full range of services it is responsible for. During the economic downturn Jobcentre Plus
has a critical role to play in supporting people getting back into work and I believe it is well placed to do so.
In 2009-2010 Jobcentre Plus will deliver further Government welfare reforms to help people find and stay in work, working in partnership with other organisations and developing our services for customers. As any new measures are introduced by the Government, Jobcentre Plus will ensure it has the capacity to deliver these. We take account of such new requirements when we assess our workforce, estates and IT capacity as part of our regular planning.
Our plans for the year ahead will be set out in more detail in the Jobcentre Plus Business Plan 2009/2010 which is due to be published in May.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what (a) qualifications and (b) experience will be required of applicants for Jobcentre Plus drug co-ordinator posts; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McNulty: All Drug Co-ordinators are required to have an understanding of the wider drug strategy, partnership working and Jobcentre Plus aims, objectives and priorities to ensure the correct skills and experience are brought to this role.
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