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Alan Keen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in Feltham and Heston constituency have (a) started Pathways to Work and (b) made recorded job starts under Pathways to Work in each year since the inception of the programme; and how many of those who started a job remain in employment. 
Angela Eagle: The Government use a basket of three key thresholds of income, after housing costs, to measure pensioner poverty. The most commonly used figures relate to those with incomes below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income, after housing costs.
Estimates of poverty, published in the Households Below Average Income series, only allow a breakdown of the overall number of people in poverty at Government office region level. Therefore, information for the Stroud constituency is not available, though figures relating to the south-west Government office region are.
Three-year averages are used to report regional statistics as single-year estimates are subject to volatility. Figures are quoted to the nearest 100,000. The following table shows the number and percentage of pensioners in the south-west Government office region who have incomes below 60 per cent. of the contemporary median income:
|Number and percentage of pensioners in the south-west Government office region with incomes below 60 per cent. of contemporary median after housing costs|
|Number of pensioners||Percentage of pensioners|
1. Figures are published in the Households Below Average Incomes (HBAI) series for 2007-08, and are based on FES figures up to 1997-98, and on the FRS from 1998-99. Three sample years have been combined for regional statistics as single year estimates are subject to volatility.
2. Number of pensioners has been rounded to the nearest 100,000. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole percentage point.
3. Changes between periods are calculated based on unrounded figures and therefore may differ from the difference between the rounded figures presented above.
We have a good track record of reducing pensioner poverty. In 2007-08 there were 900,000 fewer pensioners in relative poverty than in 1998-99 (measured as below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income after housing costs). Today's pensioners are less likely to be living in relative poverty after housing costs than the population as a whole.
In 1997, the poorest pensioners, who received Income Support, lived on around £69 a week (equivalent to £98 a week in today's prices). Today pension credit ensures that no pensioner needs to live on less than £130 a week or £198.45 a week for couples). This represents an increase in income by almost a third in real terms. And many of those on pension credit will also be entitled to additional support through housing benefit and council tax benefit.
The Pension, Disability and Carers Service continue to promote take-up of benefits for those entitled. This involves data matching to identify entitled non-recipients, home visits for vulnerable customers, targeted local marketing and media campaigns, a simple claim process involving telephones as well as paper claims and ever closer working with partner organisations. The Department is also looking at innovative ways of using information that we already hold to make payments of pension credit more automatically to entitled non-recipients.
In the Pensions Act 2007, we made a commitment to continue to uprate the pension credit standard minimum guarantee at least in line with average earnings over the long-term. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has commented that without this, it is likely there would be significant increases in pensioner poverty in the future.
We have also made a commitment to re-link the uprating of the basic state pension to average earnings. Our objective, subject to affordability and the fiscal position, is to do this in 2012, but in any event by the end of the next Parliament at the latest. This will benefit almost 12 million pensioners.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps her Department is taking to ensure that eligible pensioners receive their entitlement to (a) cold weather payments and (b) pension credit; and if she will make a statement. 
Angela Eagle: The Government are committed to helping vulnerable customers to heat their homes during the cold weather, so we are continuing cold weather payments. These provide £25 towards eligible customers' heating costs during each consecutive seven-day period of very cold weather. There is no need to claim as eligible customers are paid automatically when payments are triggered in their area.
External communications, including media and web interviews and briefings for welfare organisations, focus on reassuring customers that they will get payments and do not need to make a claim. An online tool is available on the Directgov website where people can find out about eligibility and whether payments have been triggered in their area. There is also a leaflet, 'The Social Fund' which provides information.
The Government are also committed to reducing pensioner poverty and works hard to ensure pensioners are aware of pension credit. The claims process has been simplified and since November 2008 telephone claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit can be forwarded directly to the local authority.
Targeted take-up campaigns continue in selected regions to raise awareness and to encourage customers to apply. The campaign uses a range or methods including targeted direct mail, supported by sustained media coverage as well as community advertising.
When contacted, customer advisers in the Pension, Disability and Carers Service discuss pension credit with those who may be eligible and it also conducts around 13,000 home visits a week for vulnerable customers ensuring they are receiving the benefits they are entitled to.
Joint Working Partnerships have been established with all 203 primary-tier local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. These enable the Pension, Disability and Carers Service, local authorities and the voluntary sector to provide a single point of access to social care and benefit entitlement.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have moved into self-employment under the six-month offer introduced on 6 April 2009; how many people have received the self-employment credit; how much has been spent in total on the self-employment credit; and what estimate she has made of the average cost of movement into self-employment under the offer. 
Jim Knight [holding answer 22 February 2010]: Under the jobseeker's allowance self-employment offer, there are two elements to the help we give people who want to move into self-employment or start a business-self-employment advice and support through our expert partners, and financial support for those leaving jobseeker's allowance and becoming self-employed.
Total spend on the self-employment credit up to the end of October 2009 was £2,267,776 with a unit cost of up to a maximum of £800 per start (up to 16 weeks at £50 per week). The average cost is not available.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate she has made of the costs to her Department arising from the severe weather conditions in the period 4 January to 18 January 2010; and if she will make a statement. 
Jim Knight: The severe weather experienced between 4 and 18 January 2010 had no significant impact on the operations of the Department for Work and Pensions and JCP and consequently no such estimate has been made.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how much her Department has spent on (a) incapacity benefit, (b) employment and support allowance and (c) severe disablement allowance awarded on the basis of (i) drug or alcohol dependency and (ii) alcoholic liver disease in each year since 1997; 
(4) how many claimants received awards of (a) disability living allowance only, (b) incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance or severe disablement allowance only and (c) both disability living allowance and incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance or severe disablement allowance on the basis of alcoholic liver disease in each year since 1997; 
(7) how many claimants received awards of (a) disability living allowance only, (b) incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance or severe disablement allowance only and (c) both disability living allowance and incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance or severe disablement allowance on the basis of drug or alcohol dependency in each of the last 10 years. 
Jonathan Shaw: Entitlement to incapacity benefits and disability living allowance is not dependent on a diagnosis or condition but relies instead on the effects that a person's condition has on their ability to carry out a number of everyday activities. The focus of the relevant medical assessment for incapacity benefits determines the extent to which these effects impact on a person, and benefit is only awarded after specific criteria are met. Similarly, entitlement to disability living allowance is not dependent on a diagnosis or condition but relies instead on the care and/or mobility needs arising.
Only the primary medical diagnosis written on a claimant's medical certificate is recorded for benefit purposes. However, many of those who claim benefit with a diagnosis of drug or alcohol dependency will also have other underlying medical conditions such as mental/psychiatric illness. Information on the cost and numbers of people on benefit who claim with a diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease is not available.
From 27 October 2008 we replaced incapacity benefits for new customers with the employment and support allowance and a revised medical assessment which focuses on what people can do, as well as what they cannot.
The available information has been placed in the Library. It should be noted however that this represents a subset of the total number of customers claiming these benefits who suffer from an alcohol or drug dependency
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate she has made of the number of claimants of (a) jobseeker's allowance, (b) income support, (c) incapacity benefit and (d) employment and support allowance who were alcohol mis-users in each of the last five years. 
Jim Knight: The information is not available. Alcohol misuse is a concern for the Government and work is currently under way within the Department for Work and Pensions to derive robust estimates of alcohol misuse amongst the benefit population.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance her Department has issued on the treatment in the benefits system of (a) current members of the armed forces, (b) spouses and immediate family members of members of the armed forces and (c) former members of the armed forces. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Department for Work and Pensions and its executive agencies take into account an individual's circumstances as a matter of course, including current and former service personnel and their families.
The Service Command Paper 'The Nation's Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans' [Cm 7424] published in July 2008 contained a number of departmental commitments to further support service personnel families and former members of the armed forces. These included an agreement to use service medical board evidence when considering entitlement to Employment Support Allowance (supporting guidance was issued to Jobcentre Plus staff in October 2009) and the Department's commitment to award Class 1 National Insurance Credits to spouses and civil partners of service personnel posted overseas with effect from April 2010. This will enable more members of service personnel families to qualify for Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and basic State Pension. Staff in my Department are currently working with colleagues in Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and Ministry of Defence to produce guidance on this for our staff and customers. This will include producing a customer fact sheet, providing advice to go into the packs given to members of Her Majesty's forces when a posting outside the UK is about to end and making information, including the application form for the credits, available online via the Department for Work and Pensions and Ministry of Defence websites. The addresses are:
General guidance on the application and interpretation of Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance rules for our Decision Makers can be found in the Decision Makers Guide. A copy of the Guide is available in the Library and on the Department for Work and Pensions' website at:
Following the Home Office announcement last year that all Gurkhas who retired before 1 July 1997 with four years service would be able to settle in the UK, the Pension, Disability and Carers Service has been working with other Government Departments on plans for their arrival.
In the calculation of entitlement to housing benefit and council tax benefit, a mandatory £10 disregard of income from war pensions (war disablement pension, a pension to a war widow or war widower or a similar pension paid to a surviving civil partner), applies. In addition, local authorities have discretionary powers to disregard some or all of any income from war pensions, including service attributable pensions, once the mandatory disregard of £10 has been made. It is a matter for each authority to decide the extent to which they apply the additional disregard. We have recently issued guidance clarifying that service attributable pensions fall to be disregarded under the discretionary powers.
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