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Disabled Access

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of (a) the number of village halls requiring adaptation and (b) the estimated total cost of such adaptations to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, so far as access is concerned. [65639]

Maria Eagle: A village hall is covered by Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act where it provides services to the public. We have made no separate assessment of the number of village halls requiring adaptations or the costs involved.

All service providers, including village halls, will only ever have to do what is reasonable to meet their access obligations. There is no question of unreasonable costs being imposed on village halls, or on any other service provider. The Disability Rights Commission will act as a source of information and guidance to service providers, like Village Halls, and the Commission's Code of Practice—Rights of Access: Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises provides examples of good practice and how the Act is likely to work.

Making adjustments to assist disabled customers need not necessarily be costly or difficult. Recent research commissioned by the Disability Rights Commission and the Department for Work and Pensions, with co-funding from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, has examined the costs and benefits to service providers when making adjustments to meet the needs of their disabled customers and clients (DWP Research Report 169).

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The research surveyed a UK-wide representative sample of 1,000 establishments in scope of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act. The establishments surveyed covered a range of sectors, including public and private sector organisations. The research found that for many service providers that had made adjustments costs were not seen as the dominant issue when making adjustments. The research identified a wide range of types of adjustments, and found that the costs of these adjustments varied significantly depending on the type. For most kinds of adjustments, the mean initial costs lay between £100 and £1,000. The mean on-going costs for most adjustments lay below £100 per annum.

Contributory Maternity Benefits

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent on contributory maternity benefits in each of the last 30 years; and which categories of national insurance contributions generated eligibility to such benefits in each year. [66523]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 2 July 2002]: Maternity benefits are being reformed as part of the Government's drive to help pregnant women and parents financially and to achieve a better balance between their work and home lives.

The improvements introduced by the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 mean that entitlement to maternity allowance is now based on a woman's earnings and that help is extended to women earning at least £30 a week but less than lower earnings limit applied to national insurance contributions. As a result of these changes, an additional 16,000 low-paid expectant mothers a year can get maternity allowance. Our reforms have also increased maternity allowance by 15 per cent. for around 11,000 self-employed women who previously received less benefit than employed women.

Prior to 20 August 2000, entitlement to maternity allowance was based on the payment of either Class 1 or Class 2 national insurance contributions by the mother within the relevant qualifying period.

We have also introduced Sure Start Maternity Grants to help people on low incomes meet the cost of buying essential items for a new baby. These grants have been increased this year to a significant £500 for babies due or born on or after 16 June 2002. The new scheme means more than just a cash payment. Mothers and expectant mothers also receive health advice for themselves and, importantly, for their child.

Prior to March 2000, Social Fund Maternity Payments were available to women or families in receipt of qualifying benefits or tax credits. These payments replaced the maternity grant in April 1987. Between 1982 and 1987 eligibility for the maternity grant was based solely on a test of residency in Great Britain. For confinements taking place before 4 July 1982, eligibility for the maternity grant was linked to the contribution record of either the mother or her husband using national insurance contributions of any class.

The information on expenditure on contributory maternity benefits is in the table.

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Expenditure on contributory maternity benefits
£ million

Maternity allowanceMaternity grant

(19) Figures are expressed in cash terms to the nearest £1 million.

(20) Statutory maternity pay was introduced in 1987 replacing maternity allowance for most employees.

(21) Figures are consistent with the Budget 2002 expenditure tables.



(23) Conditions of entitlement to maternity grant and maternity allowance changed during the course of the financial years 1982–83 and 2000–01 respectively. Figures include expenditure under both the contributory and non-contributory conditions.


Departmental reports and benefit forecasting model development. Maternity grant expenditure prior to 1978–79 is estimated from the published number of grants in each financial year.

Large Goods Vehicle Drivers

Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his Department is doing to provide training for large goods vehicle drivers. [61485]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Our welfare to work initiatives provide unemployed people with a range of help to overcome the barriers they face in the labour market. National programmes such as Work Based Learning for Adults (WBLA), the New Deal 25 plus and the New Deal for Young People can offer participants training opportunities tailored to their needs so they have the skills they require to find and remain in work.

Each Jobcentre Plus District is responsible for identifying training requirements for their unemployed clients, and for putting provision in place, including training for heavy goods vehicle drivers. If such provision is not in place in a particular area, Districts have the discretion to purchase 'one-off' training to meet an individual's need.

In the East of England and East Midlands Jobcentre Plus regions, there are a total of 478 contracts to deliver training and related programmes to unemployed adults,

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including those in my hon. Friend's constituency. These contracts cover many occupational areas, such as construction, manufacturing and transportation. Heavy goods vehicle training is in place in most Districts in the regions through WBLA and New Deal 25plus.

Action Teams for Jobs and Employment Zones are helping disadvantaged people in the most deprived areas of the country into work. They give help tailored to the needs of individual clients, developing innovative ways to help people overcome the barriers they face when looking for work. This has included paying for heavy goods vehicle training where this has been judged to be the most effective way to help the people concerned into work.

Child Benefit Centre (Tyne and Wear)

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many telephone inquiries were made to the Child Benefit Centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear during 2001. [56131]

Malcolm Wicks: The number of telephone calls made to the Child Benefit Centre's helplines between January 2001 and December 2001 was 2,589,348.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many successful prosecutions for fraud involving housing or council tax benefit were undertaken by local authorities in (a) 1997–98, (b) 1998–99, (c) 1999–2000 and (d) 2000–01. [69859]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 15 July 2002]: For the number of successful prosecutions for benefit fraud I refer my right hon. Friend to the written answer given to him on 23 May 2002, Official Report, column 542W. Local authorities are not required to inform the Department of prosecutions which are subsequently abandoned or result in an acquittal.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff were employed by local authorities to investigate suspicions of fraud involving housing or council tax benefit in (a) 1997–98, (b) 1998–99, (c) 1999–2000 and (d) 2000–01. [69861]

Malcolm Wicks: The information requested is in the table.

Average total number of fraud investigators (full-time or full-time equivalent) employed by local authorities


Information is not available for all 408 local authorities. The total 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.


Housing Benefit Management Information System

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