HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 cc89-90W
Mr. Andrew Turner

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the activities pursued by his Department that have had a particular impact on the Isle of Wight since 7 June 2001. [57671]

Mr. Nicholas Brown

[holding answer 10 June 2002]: The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001 from the former Department of Social Security and parts of the Department for Education and Employment. We are currently undertaking a fundamental overhaul of the welfare system, transforming it from a passive organisation paying out benefits to an active system that fights poverty, creates opportunity and helps people become self-sufficient and independent. This is making a significant contribution to the Government's overall objectives of: eradicating child poverty in 20 years, and halving it within 10; promoting work as the best form of welfare for people of working age while protecting the positions of those in greatest need; and combating poverty and promoting security and independence in retirement for today's and future pensioners.

Child benefit is now worth £15.75 a week for the eldest child and £10.55 a week for other children; nationally about 7 million families receive child benefit, and in the Isle of Wight 14,550 families benefit.

The number of people in work is at historically high levels of over 28.2 million, and in the Isle of Wight the proportion of working age people in work currently stands at 70.9 per cent. Unemployment in the Isle of Wight has fallen by 2.5 per cent. over the last year while the number of long-term unemployed, has been cut by over a quarter. Our New Deals have helped lone parents, the young unemployment, the long-term unemployed, disabled people, the over-50s and partners of the unemployed to move from benefit into work. Nationally well over 600,000 people have been helped into work by the New Deals and in the Isle of Wight over 1,900 have been helped into work.

Older people are disproportionately affected by fuel poverty. This winter (2001–02) we have made available a winter fuel payment of £200 for each eligible household to help with their heaviest fuel bill. We estimate that around 33,000 older people in the Isle of Wight have received a payment this winter.

We want all pensioners to have a decent and secure income in retirement and to share fairly in the rising prosperity of the country. Our first priority has been to help the poorest pensioners.

From April 2002 we will be spending an extra £6 billion a year in real terms on pensioners as a result of our policies. This includes £2.5 billion more on the poorest third of pensioners.

4,600 pensioner families in the Isle of Wight are receiving the minimum income guarantee which helps our poorest pensioners. Some 31,400 pensioners in the Isle of Wight will benefit from this year's increases in the basic state pension of £3 a week for single pensioners and £4.80 for couples. Those over 75, of whom we estimate there are about 14,800 in the Isle of Wight, may quality for free TV licences.

Other reforms include the new pension credit in 2003 designed to ensure that pensioners benefit from their savings and the introduction of the state second pension from this April. Both of these initiatives will help provide greater security for tomorrow's pensioners. We have also announced that from October 2003 benefits currently reduced after a hospital stay of six weeks will not be reduced until 13 weeks. This will benefit both pensioners and people of working age.