HC Deb 17 November 2003 vol 413 cc470-1
3. Hywel Williams (Caernarfon)

What steps he has taken to promote the take-up of pension credit in Wales.[138635]

7. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)

If he will estimate the number of pensioners in Wales likely to qualify for the pension credit.[138639]

The Minister for Pensions (Malcolm Wicks)

I am pleased to be able to report that 111,000 pensioner households in Wales are already getting pension credit, of which 75,000 now get more than they would have under the minimum income guarantee. We estimate that about 250,000 pensioner households in Wales are eligible for the new credit.

Hywel Williams

Given the level of pensioner poverty in Wales, many Welsh Members are promoting pension credit irrespective of our reservations. Our efforts would be far better directed if we had information on take-up by constituency. Is that information likely to become available?

Malcolm Wicks

It is difficult to give accurate estimates by constituency. I think that on average, across the whole of Great Britain, we are talking about 5,000 or so people in each constituency, but obviously that is subject to quite significant variation. We will have more details by constituency as the take-up of pension credit proceeds. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's support for pension credit. Whatever our differences of opinion, there are people in our constituencies who need the extra money and we should all endeavour to make sure that they receive it.

Mr. Edwards

May I inform my hon. Friend that about 250,000 pensioner households in Wales will greatly welcome the fact that the Government have recognised that they have modest savings, modest occupational pensions or modest earnings, and that they deserve extra help? The Government are giving them that help. Will my hon. Friend say how those with caring responsibilities will also gain from the extra help?

Malcolm Wicks

This is good news for carers because of the pension credit package. One of the ways in which we can help people is through our local pension service, which often works closely with local Members. In Wales, during October alone, we visited more than 2,500 older people, and more than 3,000 have attended outreach events run by the Pension Service. To bring the statistics down to earth, people gaining include a gentleman in Monmouth, my hon. Friend's constituency, who is aged over 80. He called into one of our local surgeries and requested a visit. He is entitled to about £45 a week on pension credit. That is an example of a policy that in practice is benefiting local people.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)

The Minister will know that because the policy particularly affects the poorest pensioners in my constituency and in every constituency in the land, it is especially to be welcomed. Tribute has already been paid to the Pension Service. However, what measures are we using to reach those who are out of the network of information—for example, those who are contactable through social services within county council services? It is vital that those who do not currently use senior citizens' groups benefit equally from the important measure that the Government have introduced.

Malcolm Wicks

Our first line of communication will be to write to every pensioner in Wales and throughout Great Britain about pension credit. They will all receive the application form, and where appropriate a form will be sent in the Welsh language. That is the service that we offer. In addition, through local advice surgeries, home visits and by working closely with social services, Age Concern and other services, we shall endeavour to inform everyone about their pension credit entitlement.