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Minimum Income Guarantee

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proposals he has to simplify the information required for pensioners to support claims for the minimum income guarantee. [145107]

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Mr. Rooker: We are looking at ways of making the minimum income guarantee claim form more customer friendly and in the process reducing its length.

As part of our modernisation program we are investing money in reforms that will ensure that pensioners can access the benefit system in ways that suit them including the telephone or the internet. As a first step we have introduced a new Tele-claim service that allows pensioners to obtain claim forms and receive assistance in completing the necessary paperwork without having to leave home. These developments will reduce the complexity of the current system and will encourage pensioners to claim their correct benefit entitlement. We want to make the system simpler, easier to understand and less trouble for pensioners.

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what further measures he plans to encourage the take-up of the minimum income guarantee by retirement pensioners; and what proposals he has for publicising the changes to be introduced in April. [145106]

Mr. Rooker: The take-up campaign is ongoing and there are many more claims in the pipeline. An update on the success of the take up campaign to the end of January should be available by mid-February. In addition, we are undertaking a further mailshot in March aimed at those pensioners who were previously unsuccessful because of income or capital and will ensure that all relevant literature reflects the changes to be introduced in April. We are determined to ensure pensioners receive their entitlements and we are discussing the scope for further take-up initiatives with the Local Government Association and voluntary organisations.

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what incentives there are for Benefits Agency staff to improve the take-up rate for the minimum income guarantee for pensioners. [145108]

Mr. Rooker: The performance measures for staff in the Benefits Agency reflect our aims of providing work for those who can and security for those who cannot work. Taking action to encourage eligible pensioners to claim their entitlement to the Minimum Income Guarantee is an integral part of the work undertaken by Benefits Agency staff.

Christmas Bonus

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the level of the Christmas bonus for pensioners will be revised; and if he will make a statement. [145406]

Mr. Rooker: We have no plans to revise the level of the Christmas bonus.

Child Support Agency

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he last met the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency to discuss improvements to the Service; and if he will make a statement. [144887]

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Angela Eagle: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State meets with the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency at regular intervals, usually monthly and the last meeting took place on 11 December 2000. These meetings cover the progress towards the implementation of the Reforms as well as current performance and improvements being made to it.

Housing Benefit Fraud

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 8 January 2000, Official Report, column 467W, on housing benefit fraud, if he will estimate (a) the average payment made to local authorities benefiting from the weekly benefit saving scheme, (b) the average penalty payment made by local authorities under that scheme and (c) the number of local authorities (i) receiving subsidies, (ii) paying penalties and (iii) neither subsidised nor penalised. [145523]

Mr. Rooker: The information is in the table.

Details of the Weekly Benefit Savings Scheme (WBS) for 1999-2000

Number of local authoritiesAverage payment/penalty for the year 1999/2000 (£)
Receiving WBS subsidy30454,652
Paying penalty4266,088
Neither subsidised nor penalised63--

Notes:

1. Four local authorities who have been neither subsidised nor penalised still have claims outstanding.

2. The figures in this answer relate to the latest information available and so do not correspond to the table placed in the Library in answer to my Written Answer on 8 January 2001, Official Report, column 467W. An updated table has been placed in the Library.

3. These figures are still subject to final audit.


Benefit Payment Card Project

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the cost of the benefit payment card project. [144837]

Mr. Rooker: The benefit payment card project, introduced in October 1996, was cancelled in May 1999. Up to the date of cancellation the Department's expenditure on technology to support the benefit payment card totals approximately £127 million.

HOME DEPARTMENT

National Asylum Support Service

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many and what proportion of applicants entering the National Asylum Seekers Support Scheme have requested voucher-only support in each month since April. [141643]

Mrs. Roche: Of those applicants assessed each month by the National Asylum Support Service the number and proportion for voucher-only support are shown in the table.

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MonthNumber of voucher only applications(19)Proportion of total NASS applications (Percentage)
April22024
May59033
June1,00042
July57028
August86028
September79025
October1,44032
November1,21025

(19) Figures rounded to the nearest ten


Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how the National Asylum Support Service ensures that other agencies who provide accommodation under the dispersal scheme have suitable expertise to obtain suitable accommodation for disabled asylum seekers; [144420]

Mrs. Roche: Staff within the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) have not received formal training in disability issues. They rely on social services departments who have the relevant expertise in this area to provide an assessment of any special needs. Where such needs are identified caseworkers within the NASS will work with the accommodation provided to ensure that they are met.

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Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how the National Asylum Support Service intends to monitor the needs of disabled asylum seekers. [144421]

Mrs. Roche: The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) has established a Performance Monitoring Section, which has responsibility for ensuring that the support provided to asylum seekers, including disabled asylum seekers, is satisfactory. If the NASS becomes aware that any aspect of support is not being provided this will be addressed.

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the National Asylum Support Service will produce an annual report. [144418]

Mrs. Roche: The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is one of the Directorates within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND). In common with other parts of the IND the activities of the NASS will be covered in the IND Annual Report.

Juvenile Secure Units

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many secure unit places there are for juvenile (a) boys and (b) girls in the Greater London area. [144579]

Mr. Boateng: Since 1 April 2000, the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales have taken over the commissioning and purchasing of secure places for juveniles. They have provided the following information. There are currently three Local Authority Secure Units in the Greater London area as detailed in the table.

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Name of establishmentLocationTypeSecure Places MaleSecure Places FemaleTotal Secure Places
Stamford HouseHammersmith, LondonMixed161026
Orchard LodgeAnerley, LondonMale only24024
LevertonBrentwood, EssexMixed12416
Total521466

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In addition, the Medway Secure Training Centre provides 44 beds for juveniles serving Detention and Training Orders in the Greater London area (33 male and 11 female places). Increasing places in the London area is a priority for the Youth Justice Board.


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