§ Annabelle Ewing
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, (1) what considerations led to the figure of £14.50 allocated to those in long-stay hospitals who are in receipt of a state benefit; 
(2) when the last review was carried out into benefit receipt for patients in long-stay hospitals; and whether there are plans to review the system in the near future. 
§ Maria Eagle
[holding reply 21 March 2002]: We have considered carefully the impact of the current rules which reduce certain benefits paid to pensioners and people of working age after six weeks of hospitalisation. The down rating of benefits preserves the principle that the State should not make double provision. It also recognises that a substantial number of people leave hospital before six weeks.
We consider the six week rule strikes a fair balance between what the state should provide financially and the provision individuals should make for themselves, 987W however, we also recognise that people have on-going financial commitments whilst in hospital. We therefore announed on 5 March 2002 that we have decided to extend the period before benefits are downrated by a further seven weeks to the 13 week stage. This will mean that people previously affected by the six week rule will be able to keep their benefits untouched if their period of stay in hospital is under 13 weeks. This will account for the majority of stays.
We will introduce this change to coincide with the introduction of Pension Credit.
The hospital personal allowance, currently £14.50 per week, is intended to provide for small personal items not provided by the hospital and is set by legislation. The amount is currently set as a percentage of Retirement Pension, which is reviewed every year. Benefit is restricted to this amount because, generally speaking, the National Health Service can be said to have assumed, to a large degree, the responsibility of providing for patients who have spent more than 52 weeks in hospital. There are no plans to change the amount by which benefits are reduced for hospital inpatients who have been in hospital for more than 52 weeks.