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20 Jan 2009 : Column 1408W—continued

Social Fund

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much and what proportion of the Social Fund has been awarded in 2008-09 to date; how much has been awarded in (a) crisis loans, (b) budgeting loans and (c) community care grants; and if he will make a statement. [246906]

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Kitty Ussher: The information requested is shown in the following table.

Discretionary Social Fund expenditure for Great Britain for April to December 2008
Award type Gross expenditure (£ million) Proportion of relevant 2008-09 budget (percentage)

Crisis loans



Budgeting loans



Total loans



Community care grants



n/a = Not applicable
(1) Of gross loans budget
(2 )Of community care grant budget
1. Gross expenditure includes awards made after review.
2. There are not separate gross budgets for crisis loans and budgeting loans, but rather a combined gross loans budget for both.
3. It is expected that an in-year allocation to the gross loans budget will be made before the end of the financial year. The proportion given above is based on the initial gross loans budget.
4. As well as the gross loans budget and the community care grant budget, there is a contingency reserve to support any Jobcentre Plus budget area that comes under pressure from unforeseen expenditure. This has not been included in the above proportions.
DWP Social Fund Policy, Budget and Management Information System.

State Retirement Pensions

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if his Department will consider the merits of allowing national insurance contributions of one half of a married couple over and above what is required to trigger entitlement to a full state pension to be transferred to a spouse if they have a shortfall in their own contributions. [247888]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 15 January 2009]: This is not a practicable proposal.

The need for such a transfer mechanism will be very limited under the reformed state pension scheme because the majority of both men and women in the UK—over 90 per cent. for those reaching state pension age in 2025—will have entitlement to a full basic state pension and are therefore less likely than under the current scheme to need to access their spouses' contributions.

It is not necessarily the case that qualifying years of contributions beyond those required for entitlement to a full basic pension are in effect surplus and not generating pension entitlement. State second pension will accrue on paid Class 1 contributions. Therefore on transferring the contributions from one spouse to another, the spouse donating the contributions would also be forfeiting any state second pension entitlement derived from them.

Overall the complexity for both customers and staff inherent to such an arrangement could not be justified given the relatively low numbers it could potentially benefit in the future under the reformed scheme.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the Government's revised deadline is to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement. [248504]

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Jonathan Shaw: The Government's intention is to achieve ratification of this important Convention at the earliest practicable opportunity, and our ambition is to do so in the spring of 2009.

Village Agent Scheme

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he plans to assess the effectiveness of the Village Agent Scheme operating in Gloucestershire; and whether he plans to extend it, with particular reference to the greater take-up of benefits amongst older people. [248162]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Village Agents Scheme was part of our LinkAge Plus pilot project which tested a comprehensive approach for accessible joined-up services for older people; one which puts older people at the centre of policy making and service delivery.

The current LinkAge Plus pilots ended their funded activity in October 2008 and each pilot is current finalising their individual pilot evaluations. All eight pilots have in the main sustained their activity, have secured funding and mainstreamed their activity to continue to deliver improved services for older people.

The national evaluation of the project includes an objective of building “an evidence base that supports the economic, as well as the social case for fully joined up/holistic services for older people” and will report in the spring of 2009.

In addition local evaluators have been appointed by each pilot to test the success of the projects in local terms. Their evidence will contribute to the national evaluation.

We are already sharing lessons learned from the pilot activity in order to encourage continuing sustainable joined-up services for older people (for example through the new Social Care Reform Grant). This scheme has attracted considerable interest from other authorities who are currently in contact with Gloucestershire county council with a view to developing similar approaches.

Winter Fuel Payments

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the level of winter heating allowance which would need to be paid in order to prevent all excess winter deaths attributable to lack of heating. [245818]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Although excess winter mortality is associated with low temperatures, conditions directly relating to cold, such as hypothermia, are not the main cause of excess winter mortality.

Mortality in the winter months is consistently higher than at other times of the year. Although influenza and health complications arising from cold weather influence the number of excess winter deaths, lack of heating is only one contributing factor that may affect a particular case. It is not therefore possible to estimate a level of winter fuel payment that would prevent all excess winter deaths attributable to lack of heating.

Winter fuel payments are one part of the overall Government programme to support vulnerable groups in winter. The programme also includes the annual seasonal influenza vaccination programme which offers
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free flu jabs to people most at risk from potentially life-threatening complications of flu; cold weather payments for vulnerable groups, which have been increased to £25 for 2008-09, and the Warm Front Scheme which focuses on improving home energy efficiency. Warm Front funding has been increased to over £950 million for the three-year period to March 2011 (with £50 million of the existing allocation being spent a year sooner than planned, ensuring that up to 30,000 vulnerable households will have less time to wait for their heating or insulation measures to be fitted).

Winter Fuel Payments: Cancer

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what financial support his Department makes available to cancer patients to assist them in meeting the cost of their heating bills; and if he will make a statement. [247752]

Jonathan Shaw: People with cancer may receive Winter Fuel Payments if they are aged 60 or over, giving older people reassurance that they can afford to heat their homes in winter. Cold Weather Payments are intended to help vulnerable groups on low incomes with the extra heating costs which result from periods of very cold weather that last, or are forecast to last, for seven days. For winter 2008-09 Cold Weather Payments have increased in value from £8.50 to £25. They are paid to people awarded Pension Credit, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance when the temperature criteria are met for their area. Those receiving Income Support, income based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance during the assessment phase must also be receiving a pensioner or disability premium, or have a child who is disabled or under the age of five.

People with cancer may also receive financial support through the disability benefits and the disability premiums in the income-related benefits in recognition of the extra costs, including heating, which they may have. These are spread over a 52 week period and can have a substantial annual value, up to around £8,000.

Children, Schools and Families

Building Schools for the Future Programme

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families which local authorities not included in waves 1 to 6 of Building Schools for the Future have been allocated a flat rate of £8 million each for 14 to 19 and special educational needs spending. [247198]

Jim Knight: All 76 local authorities not included in waves 1 to 6 of Building Schools for the Future have been allocated £8 million of Targeted Capital Funding for 14 to 19 or special educational needs. They are:

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Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what his policy is on the integration of school and onsite catering into the Building Schools for the Future programme. [247514]

Jim Knight: Our guidance, which applies to all secondary schools including those in BSF, “Building Bulletin 98, The Briefing Framework for Secondary School Projects”, sets out recommendations for a range of options to suit the catering arrangements of the school. All of which is designed to promote healthy eating to children and young people. We do not require that every school have
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a kitchen on site big enough for all purposes, because it is up to local authorities and schools to decide how best to meet the Government’s nutritional standards. The Department’s “Inspirational Design for Kitchen Spaces” provides technical guidance.

Integration of existing onsite catering services into BSF facilities management contracts is not mandatory. It will vary within each local authority according to the current contractual arrangements for the services and the proposed future model of delivery for BSF. We would of course expect local authorities to make decisions following consultation with schools and based on value for money.

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