HC Deb 12 February 1997 vol 290 cc248-9W
Mr. Barnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what use his Department and its agencies make of postcode areas for the collection of data and in formulas for the distribution of grants and awards; and when such usages were last reviewed. [14802]

Mr. Burt

Postcodes are used as one of the eligibility criteria for determining entitlement to a social fund cold weather payment. Each residential postcode is linked to one of 70 representative weather stations within Great Britain. The use of postcodes was introduced in November 1991. This enables those eligible for a payment to be identified quickly and a payment issued. After the end of each winter the scheme is reviewed. The review includes postcode to weather station links.

The family resources survey, which is sponsored by this Department, uses the Office for National Statistics small users postcode address file to select a representative sample of households in Great Britain. The sample selection is carried out by the Office for National Statistics. There has not been a comprehensive review of the usage of postcodes since the survey was launched in 1992, but the coverage achieved by the selection method is under constant surveillance.

The War Pensions Agency, in the annual report, "Pensioners by War Pension Committee Regions", shows the number of pensioners resident in specified war pension committee areas, which are broken down by postcode. The report is produced by the war pensions computer system. The method of compiling the report was last reviewed in June 1996.

The Child Support Agency uses postcodes to estimate broadly travel to work allowances which may form part of a maintenance assessment. The agency began using postcodes for this purpose following the introduction of child support legislation in April 1995, which allowed parents to have such costs reflected in their maintenance assessment. There has been no review of the usage of postcodes since that date.