HC Deb 22 March 1999 vol 328 cc104-5W
Mr. Burstow

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) of 8 March 1999,Official Report, column 52, on unclaimed benefits, what factors caused the error in the data; and when he expects to conclude his review of relevant data. [77995]

Angela Eagle

Take up of income related benefits is calculated by comparing an estimate of the number of people entitled to, but not receiving, each benefit with the number of people known to be claiming it.

The error was caused by a failure to include, in our calculations of entitlement, payments to widows from a deceased spouse's former employer (widows occupational pension). The failure occurred when these payments were first recorded separately from other occupational pensions in the Family Resources Survey, from which these estimates are made.

This caused the Department's statisticians to under-estimate the incomes of some pensioners, leading to an over-estimation of benefit entitlement. This resulted in an over-estimation of the numbers of pensioners not claiming Income Support to which they are entitled.

We expect to publish a revised set of figures for 1996–97 in May.