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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Ministry of Defence is working closely with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Homelessness Directorate and with the ex-service benevolent sector to ensure that the best advice, practical assistance and support are given to the small proportion of service leavers who are vulnerable to homelessness. Advice and assistance are co-ordinated by the Joint Service Housing Advice Office, which is a tri-service funded organisation tasked with providing information on all aspects of housing needs, including purchase or renting either privately or through a council or housing association.
Lord Bach: Through their membership of the Ex-Services Action Group on Homelessness (ESAG), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Homelessness Directorate have regular discussions with the voluntary agencies which are working to help service leavers make a better transition back to civilian life. The last ESAG meeting was held on 11 November last year. ESAG members from the voluntary sector include Home Base, Haig
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): It has never been the intention that the Social Fund should act as a replacement for household insurance. I am pleased to confirm that following a series of meetings with the Government, the Association of British Insurers has this month issued a positive statement that flood insurance will continue to be available for the large majority of people living on floodplains.
The discretionary Social Fund provides people on low incomes with grants and loans to help them manage a wide range of unexpected or occasional costs depending on their personal circumstances. We announced in the Pre-Budget Report that from April 2003, £90 million will be added to the discretionary fund over the three years to 2005-06. This extra investment will enhance the fund's ability to help those on low incomes manage their finances.
Where people are affected by flooding, the Social Fund can provide emergency financial help through community care grants and crisis loans. This help can be claimed by people who are receiving income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance and to others who have limited resources.
Social Fund districts can apply to the Social Fund Contingency Reserve for an increase in their Community Care Grant allocation where this is under particular pressure because of a local disaster or emergency such as flooding. The contingency reserve for 2002-03 is £1 million. All districts have been reminded of the availability of the reserve.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Extra finance has been supplied to local authorities to cover the additional administration costs involved in data capture and for other activities required to ensure traceability of livestock and compliance with the Disease Control Order and other regulations.
Additional staff have been employed by many authorities to carry out these tasks, although this varies according to the size of the authority. As payment is made on the basis of time spent on the additional activities, no figures are available for the total number of staff so employed.
Payments to local authorities in England and Wales for additional activities carried out under the interim animal movements arrangements for the period 11 February 2002 to date (17 January) total £4,924,440.
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