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21 May 2008 : Column 333W—continued

Work and Pensions

Children: Support

Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of people who will be affected by the proposal in the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill, if enacted, to raise the minimum payment for benefit recipients from £5 to £7. [206857]

Mr. Plaskitt: It is our firm belief that it is important that parents support their children even when they have a comparatively small income.

The proposed increase in the flat-rate to £7 recognises the fact that the current flat-rate of £5 has not been increased since it was approved by Parliament in 2000. The increase to £7 is justified by the actual and expected increase in prices and benefits between that time and 2010-11, when it is anticipated that the proposed scheme will be introduced.


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It is not possible to estimate the number of people who will be affected by increasing the £5 flat-rate to £7. This is because we know that the composition of the caseload is likely to change as we start to allow parents to make their own arrangements for child maintenance. Although we expect the size of the caseload to drop, at this time there is no way of knowing, precisely, which cases will remain and which will leave. It is therefore not possible to determine with any certainty the actual composition of the Commission's caseload at the time when existing cases will become subject to the new calculation rules.

Cost of Living: Pensioners

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the change in living costs for pensioners in the most recent period for which figures are available. [181659]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Price indices for pensioner households are published in Tables 7.4 and 7.5 of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Focus on Consumer Price Indices. Latest information relates to quarter 1 2008. This information is available in the Library.

Council Tax Benefits

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the percentage of eligible (a) households and (b) pensioner households which claimed council tax benefit in each region of England in each year since 1997. [206118]

Mr. Plaskitt: Estimates of the proportion of those eligible who claim council tax benefit are not available below the level of Great Britain. It is, therefore, not possible to say what the take-up rate was in each region of England since 1997.

Departmental Correspondence

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what checks are in place to ensure inappropriately signed print is not used in letters issued to his Department's clients with visual impairment. [205246]

Mrs. McGuire: Customers have the option to request written information in a different format to ensure disabled people can access our services. Customers with visual difficulties can request to receive their letters in larger sized print. We then take measures to ensure that all future correspondence is issued appropriately.

Fire Prevention: Public Buildings

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions (a) he and (b) the Health and Safety Executive have had with local authorities and the construction industry on fire resistance standards for materials used in public buildings. [203723]

Mrs. McGuire: None. These matters are outside the remit of my Department and the Health and Safety Executive.


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Fylde

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many full-time equivalent staff (a) were employed by each of his business directorates in Fylde in each of the last four years and (b) have been so employed in 2008; [205690]

(2) how many of his Department's staff working in Fylde were redeployed to Government work in another
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Department in (a) 2008 and (b) each of the preceding four years. [205692]

Mrs. McGuire: The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff employed in each business unit in Fylde in each of the last four years is shown in the following table. For 2004-07 the figure shown is the number of staff still employed at 31 December. The figure for 2008 is at 30 April 2008, the latest date for which figures are available.

Full-time equivalent staff employed in Fylde
Fylde Business Units Staffing December 20 04 December 20 05 December 20 06 December 20 07 April 20 08

The Appeals Service(1)

FTE

0

1

0

0

0

Child Support Agency

FTE

302

294

456

382

367

Corporate and Shared Services

FTE

1,474

1,300

1,143

944

876

Disability and Carers Service

FTE

2,973

3,143

3,040

2,763

2,703

Jobcentre Plus

FTE

983

471

873

770

735

The Pensions Service

FTE

94

104

326

214

103

Total FTE(2)

5,826

5,314

5,839

5,073

4,784

(1) The Appeals Service transferred to the Department for Constitutional Affairs from April 2006.
(2) Total may not sum due to rounding

The number of the Department's staff who transferred from Fylde to Government work in another Department is shown in the following table:

Staff transferring to other Government Departments
Fylde staff transferred to OGD( 1) Headcount

1 January to 31 December 2004

32

1 January to 31 December 2005

18

1 January to 31 December 2006

23

1 January to 31 December 2007

24

1 January to 30 April 2008 (latest month)

4

Total

101

(1) The numbers of staff transferred to OGD includes both staff redeployed and those moving on a voluntary basis. To break this information down further would be at a disproportionate cost.

Jobseeker's Allowance: Students

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects the review into the rules on periods of study allowed by those on jobseekers allowance to be completed and published. [201882]

Mr. Plaskitt: We worked with City Strategy Pathfinders during 2007 to look at what further enabling measures could be put in place to help people into work; this included looking at whether any further changes needed to be made to enable benefit claimants to be able to study or train full-time. This work concluded that a wide range of flexibilities already existed to enable full-time study, for example for those on long-term incapacity benefit and people in vulnerable groups claiming income support.

In our joint report with DIUS, “Opportunity, Employment and Progression”, published on 26 November 2007, we indicated that we were removing the 16 hour rule in housing benefit for short term recipients of incapacity benefit and that we would consider whether it might be practicable to define limited exemptions from the ‘16 hour rule’ for specific groups—such as young people living in supported accommodation. We will report on progress on both of these in due course. We are also taking forward a proposal to allow more people on jobseeker’s allowance to be able to access full-time, employment focused training for up to eight weeks by moving them onto a training allowance. We are planning to test a similar flexibility in a City Strategy Pathfinder area later this year and, learning the lessons from this, roll out nationally during the 2009-10 academic year. We are also looking at further ways of increasing access to full-time training for jobseeker’s allowance claimants where this would help support their move into employment.

London Airports

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times his Department hired VIP facilities at (a) Heathrow, (b) Gatwick, (c) Luton and (d) Stansted airports in each month since May 2006; and what the expenditure on VIP facilities at each was in each of those months. [205145]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions does not hire VIP facilities at airports.

Pension Service: Swansea

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what work has been transferred from other centres to the Pension Service Centre in Swansea since 2005. [201210]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: 450,000 customer cases.

Pensioners: Cost of Living

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost of living for pensioner households in each year since 1997. [203275]


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Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the pensioner prices index was in each year from 1978-79 to 2008-09. [200649]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Price indices for pensioner households are published in Tables 7.4 and 7.5 of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Focus on Consumer Price Indices. This information is available in the Library.

ONS produce separate indices for one and two pensioner households where at least three quarters of the household’s income is from state benefits. These households are excluded from the Retail Prices Index (RPI).

The ONS exclude housing costs from the pensioner indices on the grounds that this would overstate inflation, as pensioners either tend to have lower housing costs, or would mostly be cushioned against some rises in housing costs by increases in housing-related benefits.

Pensioners: Income

David Mundell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of pensioners had
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a net annual income of (a) up to £5,200, (b) £5,200 to £10,400, (c) £10,400 to £20,800, (d) £20,800 to £40,000, (e) £40,000 to £80,000 and (f) over £80,000 in (i) Scotland and (ii) the UK in the latest year for which figures are available. [200838]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Due to pension credit no pensioner need live on less than £124.05 per week (£6,451 per year) in 2008-09, compared to £67.05 per week in 1996-97 (£3,487 per year).

The pension credit take-up target for 2008-09 is to deliver an annualised value of new successful pension credit applications of £767 million and to secure at least 250,000 successful new pension credit applications, an increase of 15,000 on this year’s target.

We want as many people as possible to take up the benefits they are entitled to, which is why we have simplified the application process and focussed on encouraging people to apply.

The following table shows the percentage of pensioners with net income in each income band:

Percentage of pensioner units with net income in each band
Scotland UK

Up to £5,200

4

6

£5,200 to £10,400

39

34

£10,400 to £20,800

44

43

£20,800 to £40,000

12

14

Over £40,000

2

3

Notes:
1. Net income before housing costs is gross income less income tax payments, national insurance contributions, contributions to occupational and private pension schemes, local taxes, maintenance and child support payments, and parental contributions to children living away from home.
2. Based on survey data and as such subject to a degree of sampling and non sampling error.
3. All figures are rounded to the nearest 1 per cent. Figures may not sum to 100 per cent. due to rounding.
4. Due to the small sample sizes involved in estimates below a national level, three year’s data have been combined and the income band has been deflated to the appropriate year’s prices.
5. A pensioner unit is either a single person over pension age or a couple in which at least one person is over pension age.
6. Figures for Scotland are estimated by combining three year’s data from 2003-04 to 2005-06. Figures for the UK are based on 2005-06 data. Reliable estimates of the percentage of pensioners receiving between £40,000 and £80,000 per year and over £80,000 per year are not possible with the data source, so the two groups have been combined.
Source:
Family Resources Survey

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