HC Deb 23 May 2002 vol 386 cc546-7W
Mr. David Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice and information will be provided by staff in the new pension centres to encourage(a) new and (b) existing pensioners to (i) claim the minimum income guarantee and (ii) receive payments directly from post offices. [58208]

Mr. McCartney

The Pension Service will provide a modern, efficient and customer focused service for both today's and future pensioners. It will play a crucial role in our aim to tackle pensioner poverty. We are committed to encouraging pensioners to claim their full entitlements. We have already conducted a very successful minimum income guarantee (MIG) campaign which resulted in an extra 134,000 pensioners making successful claims to MIG receiving on average an extra £20 a week.

We are continuing to look at more effective ways of encouraging eligible pensioners to claim the MIG. Initiatives include: A MIG claim line on freephone 0800 028 1111. This is available to enable our customers to apply for MIG easily and simply. A new shortened claim form available on the internet at www.thepensionservice.gov.uk. Since April 2002, all customers contacting the Retirement Pension Teleclaims Centre are offered information on MIG and asked if they would like someone to call them back with more information and pursue a claim. Those customers who do not wish to claim MIG via the RP telecentre are sent a MIG information leaflet with their RP claim pack.

Additionally, we will: Issue mailshots to pensioners who claimed RP and who may also be entitled to MIG, encouraging them to claim. Around 100,000 pensioners will receive a mailshot over the April-June period. Use "trigger" questions which identify customers who have a match with one or more predetermined 'key life events' that may indicate a potential entitlement to MIG, for example, when customers aged 60 and over receive a new award of one or more benefits, such as attendance allowance, industrial injuries benefit or housing benefit. A letter explaining the possible entitlement and inviting customers to claim MIG is sent to all customers identified in this way.

Training material for Pension Service staff includes guidance on identifying potential entitlement to MIG. If, during the course of any inquiry, it becomes evident that the pensioner might be entitled to MIG they will be encouraged to claim.

Also, the local service will work closely with local authorities, the voluntary sector and other service providers to give a proactive service and ensure that customers receive their full benefit entitlement. In time local service staff will be trained to provide a more joined-up service covering the broad range of services older people may need to access. The local service will include surgeries, a home visiting where there is a special need and joint benefit take-up campaigns.

At the moment, pensioners can choose to be paid by order book or have their money paid directly into a bank or building society account. From April 2003, payments directly into accounts will become the normal method of payment. People will still be able to collect their money from the post office and will be provided with information to enable them to choose the most appropriate account.

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