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Pensioners

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many newly qualified pensioners have lost part of their state retirement pension in each of the past five years on account of failure to apply within three months of the qualifying date for first payment; what the total was in (a) unpaid pension entitlement and (b) discretionary payment of restored pension in cases where administration failure has occurred; and if he will make a statement. [56590]

Mr. McCartney: Because pensioners can elect to defer payments of their pensions for up to five years in order to earn increments which increase the amount payable, information on the number of people who fail to make a claim for state retirement pension within the statutory period is not available.

In a very small number of cases administrative failure causes the late payment of entitlements. Where this is the case extra statutory payments of state retirement pension are paid. Details of payment in the last five years are set out in the table.

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PeriodCases paidTotal amount paid (£)
1997–98(26)241674,776.23
1998–99(26)204513,077.55
1999–2000(26)150347,599.80
2000–01(26)291659,868.56
2001–02(26)138286,233.40

(26) 12 months April to March


Anglo-Italian Meetings

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on how many occasions in the last six months (a) he and (b) his officials have met their Italian counterparts; and what subjects were discussed. [56891]

Mr. Darling: I met my Italian counterpart, Roberto Maroni, in London on 5 February 2002, when we discussed labour market reforms in the UK and Italy.

Incapacity Benefit

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to reduce non-attendance at personal capability assessment examinations for incapacity benefit. [57614]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: When people claim incapacity benefits they are normally required to undergo a Personal Capability Assessment carried out by SchlumbergerSema Medical Services on behalf of the DWP. Currently, around 25 per cent. of customers nationally do not attend their appointment, which are arranged by correspondence.

A telephone appointment booking service has been piloted in Derby and Stoke (from October 2001) and in Liverpool (Bootle and Mann Island), Acton and Euston (from February 2002). This has proved very successful in reducing non-attendance, reducing waiting time for customers at medical centres and allowing customers to discuss the PCA process with staff prior to their appointment. As well as providing a better customer service, the new process has improved administration and made better use of doctors' time. We therefore intend to adopt the process nationally by the end of June 2002.

Benefit Fraud Inspectorate

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will publish the inspection report of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate in respect of Derby city council. [57615]

Malcolm Wicks: The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's report on Derby city council was published today and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

The report finds that there are inconsistencies in the way that Derby city council administers benefit. On the one hand, the council gives a high priority to promoting and paying benefit and is commended for these activities. However, local authorities also have a duty to safeguard their activities against fraud, irregularity and corrupt practices. At Derby, BFI finds that the council has neglected counter fraud activity, detecting error and recovering overpaid benefit.

The BFI commends the council for its work on benefits take-up and social policies which support the high level of importance that elected members give to promoting and paying benefit and to providing a high quality customer

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service. However, the BFI is extremely concerned that this has been prioritised to the detriment of other responsibilities. Inspectors found the council has created an environment where benefits, overpayments and counter fraud sections have been hindered from focusing on reducing fraud and error.

Management checking was abandoned in August 1999 due to IT problems and as a result there is no assurance on the security on access to benefits.

The report finds that the council has carried out counter fraud activities simply to achieve Weekly Benefits Savings targets, with little commitment to reducing, deterring or eradicating fraud and error. The fraud team has been managed on a part-time basis since September 2000 and little effort has been made to prosecute fraudsters.

The report makes a great number of recommendations to the council to help to raise the standard of both benefits administration and counter fraud work.

HEALTH

Design Champion

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the reasons were for the selection of Lord Hunt of King's Heath as the Department of Health's Design Champion. [47022]

Ms Blears: The Department's design programme "Achieving Excellence in Healthcare Design" was launched by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in November 2001. This programme will be realised by NHS Estates.

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My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath) is the Health Minister with direct responsibility for many of NHS Estates' key objectives. He is personally mentoring four schemes at Central Manchester Teaching Hospitals NHS trust, University hospitals Birmingham NHS trust, Walsall hospitals NHS trust and Leicester city west NHS trust.

Homeless People

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what (a) number and (b) percentage of people who are considered homeless have been diagnosed with mental health problems. [56156]

Ruth Kelly: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Dr. Evan Harris, dated 16 May 2002:







Table 1: Prevalence of mental disorder among homeless people in 1994
Great Britain Percentage assessed with disorder

Type of disorder
Psychotic disorder(27)Neurotic disorders(28)Alcohol dependenceDrug dependence(29)GHQ12 score(30) >=4
Homeless adults in
Hostels841161139
Private sector leased accommodation2383742
Nightsheltersn/an/a442959
Sleeping rough and using day centresn/an/a502457

(27) Disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

(28) Disorders such as depression, generalised anxiety disorders, phobias, etc. (often called common mental disorders).

(29) People were defined as dependent on a drug if they had taken it every day for two weeks or more in the past year, and they had taken the drug more than prescribed, without prescription or to get high.

(30) The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ12) is a short questionnaire designed to detect mental health problems. Comparison between GHQ scores in the samples of residents in hostels and private sector leased accommodation and the measure of neurotic disorders used in this survey showed that a person scoring four or above has a high probability of being assessed as having a neurotic disorder.


Litigation

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cases (a) his Department and (b) its agencies have defended in (i) industrial tribunals and (ii) the courts in each year since 1997; how many were concluded in their favour; and what the total cost to his Department of litigation was in each year. [41112]

Ms Blears: The available information is shown in the table. Detailed information for 1997–99 is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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Cases defended by Department and its agencies ResultCosts (Counsel fees and settlement costs) £
1997
17
1998
31
1999
18
2000
3016 concluded in our favour14,574.00
14 on-going19,342.00
2001
2812 concluded in our favour47,656.00
16 on-going11,650.00
9,500 part-time pension casesOn-going

Notes:

The Department's agencies are Medicines Control Agency, Medical Devices Agency, NHS Pensions Agency, NHS Estates, NHS Purchasing and Supplies Agency. They are not always recorded separately and therefore a split between them cannot be shown.

All figures are for employment tribunal cases and not "the courts".

The costs given relate to settlement costs and counsels' fees.

Cases concluded in our favour are cases that have been dismissed, withdrawn, struck out or settled. The Department chooses to settle in some cases to ensure cost effectiveness. It is not normally for a large sum of money.

The part time pension cases concern issues of equal pay and sex discrimination and they are on-going (commenced in 1995).



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