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21 Oct 2002 : Column 113W—continued

Child Support

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he intends to meet the Chief Executive of the CSA to discuss the progress of changes to the CSA; and if he will make a statement. [73085]

Malcolm Wicks: The Secretary of State holds regular meetings with the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency to discuss the introduction of the new child support scheme and other operational issues.

Pensioners

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of persons of pensionable age there will be in (a) 10 and (b) 20 years' time; and if he will make a statement on the implications for public expenditure of these estimates. [73086]

Mr. McCartney: It is estimated that there will be around 12 million people of pensionable age in 10 years time and around 12.5 million in 20 years time. The impact of an ageing population on the UK's public finances is expected to be manageable. The UK's public finances are sound and sustainable over the long term.

The Government's long-term reforms will ensure that everyone has the chance to save for a decent income in retirement. Stakeholder pensions now provide a new option of safe, flexible, value for money pensions for people on moderate and higher earnings who do not have access to a good occupational scheme.

The Government also wants private pensions to remain attractive to members and to scheme providers. That is why steps are being taken to simplify the private pensions system while at the same time safe-guarding the security of scheme members.

The State Second Pension, introduced in April 2002, means that low earners will get at least double what they would have got from SERPS, while carers and disabled people with broken work records will be entitled to a second pension for the first time.

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The next stage in the Government's strategy is the Pension Credit. From 2003, this will tackle both poverty amongst today's pensioners and complement stakeholder pensions by boosting the incentive for future pensioners to save for their own retirement.

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the take-up of income related benefits by pensioners. [73098]

Mr. McCartney: As a result of the national Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) take up campaign, over 139,000 pensioners are on average #20 a week better off. Over 2 million people now benefit from the MIG.

We have introduced a range of initiatives to improve the take up of MIG, including, a revised and substantially shortened claim form and a new leaflet explaining MIG in simple terms. We have also put in place measures to identify those pensioners who may be entitled to the MIG. Since October 2001 callers to the Retirement Pension telecentre who are not in receipt of MIG, but identified as possible claimants, have been encouraged to claim. Since April 2002 non-recipients of MIG who have potential entitlement following certain key life events, such as reaching age 75 or 80, or who are awarded another benefit such as Attendance Allowance, are automatically identified and invited to claim.

We are working with pensioner organisations and Local Authorities on take up initiatives which ensure pensioners on low incomes claim what they are entitled to.

As at May 2001, there are 1,939,000 pensioners are in receipt of Housing Benefit and 2,891,000 pensioners are in receipt of Council Tax Benefit.*


* Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Management Information Annual 1 per cent. sample enquiry taken in May 2001

Carer's Allowance

Mr. Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will review regulations which reduce the value of carer's allowance and other benefits when recipients attain pensionable age; and if he will make a statement. [73089]

Maria Eagle: It is a basic principle of the Social Security system that only one benefit at a time can be paid for income maintenance. This is known as the overlapping benefit rule and has been a feature of the welfare state since its inception. State Pension is an income replacement benefit for those who have reached pensionable age. Invalid Care Allowance (ICA), which will be re-named ''Carer's Allowance'' in April 2003, provides a measure of financial support to those who give up the opportunity of full time paid employment to care for a severely disabled person. It too is an income replacement benefit. Even if it is not payable, underlying entitlement to ICA continues and if the carer is entitled to any of the income related benefits, carer premium can be paid. This is worth #24.80 per week.

There are no plans to change these arrangements.

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Occupational Pensions

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will require employers and employees to make compulsory second pension contributions. [73093]

Mr. McCartney: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) on 15 October 2002, Official Report, column 640W.

Labour Market

Mr. Doran: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on recent trends in the labour market in the manufacturing industry. [73097]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Our policies have created a strong economy geared to delivering stability, low inflation and sound public finances. Alongside this, our labour market policies promote attachment to the job market. As a result of our policies we have around the lowest number of unemployed people in a quarter century, and more people in work than ever before, with an increase in overall employment of almost 200,000 in the last year.

There are consistently high numbers of vacancies being created, with approximately 10,000 jobs being notified to Jobcentres every day. Our welfare to work policies, such as the New Deal, are aimed at helping those who lose their job, whether in manufacturing or any other sector, access these vacancies and return to work as quickly as possible.

In the United Kingdom, manufacturing employment has been on a downward trend since the mid-1960s. The trend towards a larger proportion of total employment being accounted for by services is common amongst industrialised countries. However, manufacturing matters. It creates a fifth of our national output, employs four million people and produces the majority of our exports. The success of United Kingdom manufacturing is therefore crucial to our country's prosperity, now and in the future.

One of the pillars of the Government's manufacturing strategy is raising skills and education levels and the Department is playing a key role in this area. Jobcentre Plus is one of the five key partners involved in the production of Frameworks for Regional Employment and Skills Action within the context of the Regional Economic Strategies. The Frameworks offer the opportunity to bring together various agencies to work towards a common employment strategy. They include plans for dealing with skills shortages, helping to ensure that industry has access to a pool of potential employees with the right skills for the modern labour market.

Long-term Unemployment

Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what further steps he will take to help communities with high levels of long term unemployment. [73065]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Economic stability and active labour market programmes have helped people move from welfare to work in all parts of the country. Unemployment has in general fallen fastest in the areas

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where it was highest, so that the gap between the employment rate in the poorest areas and the average has narrowed.

As well as the New Deals, we have Action Teams for Jobs and Employment Zones operating in areas with persistently high levels of unemployment.

Of course we want to do more. We are piloting the mandatory StepUp jobs initiative, working on extending Employment Zones to more client groups and investing new funds to help Action Teams support employment and transport projects that will benefit their local communities.

Deafness

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his policy is on funding under the Access-to-Work Scheme to prelingually deaf people who need language support at work in connection with reading and writing English. [74134]

Maria Eagle: The Access to Work programme provides help for disabled people with additional costs in travelling to work, adaptations to workplaces, special equipment and funding for support workers. The budget has been increased every year since 1997, and 32,798 people benefited from the scheme in 2001–02 compared to just 10,000 in 1996–97.

Help through Access to Work can include funding for English language support for prelingually deaf people to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities at work.

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when information about disability living allowance will be made available in sign-language video format. [74137]

Malcolm Wicks: Information about Disability Living Allowance, along with the rest of the Department's benefit and pensions information, is currently being reviewed across the Department for Work and Pensions.

The review is driving the establishment of new corporate standards for the production of information in alternative formats. This includes the use of British Sign Language and the production of videos.


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