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14. Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many complaints he has received about the operation of the Child Support Agency over the past year; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Eagle: Normally, complaints about the operation of the Child Support Agency are addressed to the chief executive of the CSA. Around 16,000 complaints have been received to date this financial year. The agency is committed to reducing complaints, and these are currently within the target set by Secretary of State of 0.15 per cent. of the total caseload.
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Angela Eagle: The child support scheme is being completely reformed to address the failures of the current system. The new system will be straightforward and easily understood, allowing the Child Support Agency to deliver an effective and reliable service.
We published our strategy to achieve this in December. One of our first steps is the formation of the expert help team. Working in partnership with local authorities, the team will help authorities turn things around.
Angela Eagle: We recognise that some local authorities provide a better service than others. The Housing Green Paper set out our strategy for reforming the complex and fragmented Housing Benefit system that we inherited. Our priority is to work with local authorities to improve standards, drive our fraud and error and promote work incentives.
Our response to consultation on the Green Paper set out a wide-ranging package of measures to help improve service delivery and streamline the system, making Housing Benefit easier for councils to administer and those in need to claim.
We have already announced the setting up of the expert help team, which will help those councils committed to working in partnership to develop and manage improvement plans. I am pleased to see that East Ayrshire council is among the first wave of local authorities to take advantage of the help offered by the team.
28. Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the action he will take against local authorities which have a poor record for addressing Housing Benefit fraud. 
Mr. Rooker: We are working in partnership with local authorities, through the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) and other agencies, to ensure that the unacceptable levels of fraud and error are reduced. Fighting fraud is fundamental to the good administration of Housing Benefit. If the BFI identifies administrative weaknesses in a local authority, we expect the authority to act quickly to remedy them. Where the BFI finds evidence of persistent service failings, we will use our statutory powers to direct the authority concerned on the standards it is to achieve and the time scales for doing so.
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of paying retirement pensions to ensure that payments are made from the actual day of entitlement rather than from the following Monday. 
Mr. Bayley: We have consulted widely, including with employers. Their views are helping us to target our measures more effectively to support those currently claiming incapacity benefits who wish to move into work.
The New Deal for Disabled People has already helped over 6,200 people move into work. We will be extending services nationally from July this year and in addition we are currently tendering for job retention and rehabilitation pilot providers.
Angela Eagle: Ministers from this Department and the Department for Education and Employment attended regional events last week in advance of the national advertising campaign for the New Deal for Lone Parents, which starts today. These events brought together employers and some of the over 200,000 lone parents who have participated in the programme.
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Mr. Rooker: This week the Department is writing to pensioners who might be eligible for the Minimum Income Guarantee as a result of the April increases to the capital limits. We are also reducing the size of the MIG claim from 40 pages to 10 pages.
In addition, the pension credit will be designed to reward pensioners with modest pensions and savings. Part of our proposals for the pension credit includes the abolition of the current capital rules, with consideration given to the income from savings instead.
26. Liz Blackman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent discussions he has had with pensioner organisations about the level of spending by his Department on pensioners. 
Mr. Rooker: All spending on benefits by my Department is scrutinised by Parliament. I have not had any recent meetings with pensioner organisations to discuss issues specifically relating to spending--nor would it be appropriate for me to do so. However, the fact that we are spending £4.5 billion this year on pensioners has been widely welcomed.
Mr. Rooker: Our record speaks volumes. This April, around two million of the poorest pensioner households will be at least £15 a week, or £800 a year, better off in real terms as a result of Government measures since 1997. That is a real terms rise in living standards of at least 17 per cent.
Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will propose to amend the Social Security Benefit (Computation of Earnings) Regulations 1996 so as to provide that where the dependant of a state pensioner earns money and is paid monthly there would be no deduction from the state pensioner's benefit in respect of any weeks within that monthly period in which no money was earned by the dependant. 
Mr. Rooker: The Computation of Earnings Regulations, which were introduced in October 1996, align the method of calculation of earnings for the non- income-related benefits with that used for the income- related benefits. The change was designed to remove inconsistencies between benefits and reduce complexity in the social security scheme. The current rules are intended to make the calculation of earnings fair, easy to understand and straightforward to administer, while ensuring similarity of treatment between people in similar circumstances.
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Mr. Swinney: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the impact on income-related benefits for pensioners of the basic state pension being uprated in line with earnings from 2002-03. 
Mr. Rooker: In 2002-03, we will be spending over £5 billion a year extra in real terms on pensioners as a result of policies since 1997. This will be £3 billion more a year than if the basic state pension had been linked to earnings since April 1998.
Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what arrangements he has made to ensure that his Department can inform individually those who will be retiring with a SERPS pension after 2002 that their spouse will not be entitled to full inherited rights. 
Mr. Rooker: We are writing to all pensioners to reassure them that they will not be affected by the change in the rules. Regulations were laid on 26 February to put into effect the proposals announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 29 November. Subject to parliamentary approval for these regulations, arrangements are being made to inform the large number of people affected and to answer queries from individuals about their own entitlement to SERPS.
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