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Child Support Agency

Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to reform the workings of the Child Support Agency. [25135]

Malcolm Wicks: From April 2002 we will introduce a number of changes to the child support system. The changes are designed to provide a simple, clear and responsive service which will be easy to operate and easy to understand.

The new arrangements will be introduced for new clients from April 2002. Current clients will transfer to the new scheme, from a later date, when we are sure that the new arrangements are working well.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many prosecutions for social security fraud there were in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999 and (d) 2000; [18509]

Malcolm Wicks: Information on the duration of fraudulent claims is not collected centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. In order to prepare for the implementation of the "two strike" provisions in the Social Security Fraud Act 2001 we are currently improving the data sources used to compile information on prosecutions, cautions and penalties. The latest provisional information is in the table.

InvestigationsProsecutionsCautions and penalties as an alternative to prosecutionTotal
Benefits Agency
Local authority


1. Benefits Agency investigations data are now compiled from a new data source. The figures above are provisional and may differ from those previously published.

2. The data on cautions and penalties for 1998–99 is derived from the database proceeding the current database and there maybe some overlap with 1999–2000.

3. Administrative Penalties, as an alternative to prosecution, were introduced by the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act (1997) with effect from December 1998.

4. Figures are taken from local authority management information returns. It is possible that there could be some double counting with Benefits Agency data if there were cases which involved a joint prosecution.

5. Data are not available for all 409 local authorities. The total for Great Britain includes estimates for local authorities that have not responded. These estimates are based on historical and regional data. This type of estimate is standard practice in reporting totals where there have been non-respondents. The figures have been rounded to two significant figures.

9 Jan 2002 : Column: 927W


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures social security offices use to ensure claimants of means-tested benefits do not have capital at levels which would render them ineligible for benefits. [18510]

Malcolm Wicks: When income-related benefits are first claimed, officials can require claimants to provide evidence of capital. Periodic checks are made to ensure that entitlement remains correct, by a variety of means including home visit, office interview, post or telephone.

The information gathering powers contained in the Social Security Fraud Act 2001 will allow authorised officers in the Department and in local authorities, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect fraud, to require financial institutions to provide information about their customers, including savings and assets. These powers will commence in the first quarter of 2002.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what were the average processing times for claims to (a) disability living allowance, and (b) attendance allowance, in each month since January; and what were the average processing times for these benefits in each full year since 1997. [24217]

Maria Eagle: The information is in the tables.


DLA actual average clearance timesAA actual average clearance times
January 45.528.7
March 41.724.9
April 41.425.3
May 41.525.9
June 43.526.8
July 45.727.1
August 44.628.3
September 44.428.4
October 46.330.9
November 44.628.2

9 Jan 2002 : Column: 928W

Actual average clearance time year to date for DLA(7)Actual average clearance time year to date for AA(7)

(7) Figures as at each year end (31 March)

(8) Figures to end of November 2001

Child Poverty

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many children were living in poverty in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [22441]

Malcolm Wicks: Child poverty and social exclusion are complex multi-dimensional concepts, affecting many aspects of children's lives—including their living standards, health, housing, the quality of the environment and opportunities to learn. The third "Opportunity for all" report (Cm 5260) sets out the Government's strategy for tackling child poverty and social exclusion and presents the latest information on the indicators used to monitor progress against this strategy.


Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the number of sarccidosis sufferers in receipt of disability living allowance. [25483]

Maria Eagle: Information is not available in the form requested.

Departmental Projects

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list (i) the start date, (ii) the planned completion date, (iii) the actual completion date, (iv) the planned cost and (v) the actual cost of (a) DSS year 2000 programme, (b) site backbone upgrade, (c) CSA operations re-organisation project, (d) decision making and appeals, (e) working families tax credit, (f) resource accounting and budgeting, (g) devolution (Scotland), (h) disability living allowance administrative reforms, (i) order book control service (OBCS)—national roll-out project, (j) bereavement benefits, (k) jobseeker's allowance—new deal for partners of the unemployed, (l) the strategic debt solution project, (m) the ACCORD IS/IT supply programme (office and networks) and (n) the ITSA strategic outsourcing project. [18002]

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will answer question 18002, on his Department's IT projects, tabled by the hon. Member for Northavon on 21 November 2001. [23923]

Mr. McCartney: As explained in my answer on 13 July 2001, Official Report, columns 689–90W, the increase in resources provided in Spending Review 2000 allowed the Department to expand greatly the speed and scope of our modernisation programme. The headquarters of DWP were also re-organised to focus resources more on delivery. As a result the entire programme was replanned and organised on a different basis. In the course of this work a number of existing projects merged,

9 Jan 2002 : Column: 929W

restructured, superseded or concluded. As a consequence the information sought can be calculated only at disproportionate cost.

Benefits Take-up

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Daventry, (Mr. Boswell), of 19 November 2001, Official Report, column 152W, how take-up of disability living allowance among eligible children is kept under review. [24246]

Mr. McCartney: We undertake routine monitoring of statistical information which indicates that take-up of disability living allowance continues to increase.

Bereavement Allowance

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment he has made on the financial impact of the introduction of the bereavement on allowance on women under 55 years of age who have been widowed since 9 April and are in receipt of incapacity benefit; [22278]

Malcolm Wicks: Our reforms to bereavement benefits introduced in April 2001 concentrate the help available where and when it is needed most—on immediate needs and on families with children. And for the first time these benefits are available equally to both men and women. Immediate help with costs arising on bereavement is provided by a lump sum bereavement payment of £2000—double the old widow's payment of £1000. There is a weekly benefit for widowed parents who satisfy the qualifying conditions. The bereavement allowance is also available for 12 months, to give widows and widowers aged 45 or over without dependants time to adjust to their new circumstances.

Women under 55 years of age who have been widowed since 9 April 2001 can claim the new bereavement benefits in the same way as anybody else. Where they are already in receipt of incapacity benefit and claim either widowed parent's allowance or bereavement allowance they will receive the higher of the two benefits to which they are entitled.

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