HC Deb 20 March 2003 vol 401 cc914-7W
Mr. Webb

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to publish the Office of Government Commerce gateway review into the transfer of benefit payments to automated credit transfer; [91290]

(2) when the Office of Government Commerce follow-up gateway review into the transfer of benefit payments to automated credit transfer will be completed; and what plans he has to publish the results. [91291]

Malcolm Wicks

The Office of Government Commerce issued the results of the April 2002 review into the transfer of benefit payments to payment direct into bank and building society accounts to the Department in May 2002.

The follow-up gateway review is provisionally scheduled for April 2003, one year after the original review, the results of which will again be issued to the Department.

Further dissemination of the review is subject to the Code of Practice on Access to Official Information.

Benefit 15 June to 13 July 2002 14 July to 10 August 2002 11 August to 7 September 2002 8 September to 5 October 2002 6 October to 2 November 2002
Jobseekers Allowance 3,144 3,220 3,343 3,246 3,549
Income Support 6,918 6,772 5,938 6,611 6,801
Incapacity Benefit 2,851 2,032 3,514
Severe Disablement 415 302 459
Allowance Industrial Injuries 47 471 541 531
Widows Benefit 273 195 321
Bereavement Benefit (— 47 30 54
Disability Living Allowance 7,870 2,740 3,343 3,704 4,136
Attendance Allowance 770 442 479 541
Invalid Care Allowance 1,108 1,080
Retirement Pension 12,799 10,032 16,253
Minimum Income Guarantee 3,236 3,089 2,783 2,760 3,014
Child Benefit 7,659 9,296 7,146 7,357 9,373
War Pensions 1,427
Total GB Benefit Accounts 31,362 42,319 36,057 24,698 49,626

Benefit 3 November to 30 November 2002 1 December to 28 December 2002 29 December 2002 to 25 January 2003 26 January to 22 February 2003
Jobseekers Allowance 3,804 4,149 3,705 5,083
Income Support 7,715 5,087 6,215 9,186
Incapacity Benefit 3,665 3,920
Severe Disablement 602 591
Allowance Industrial Injuries 511 462 412 675
Widows Benefit 309 292
Bereavement Benefit 45 60
Disability Living Allowance 3,964 2,720 3,047 5,064
Attendance Allowance 495 419 408 612
Invalid Care Allowance 1,173
Retirement Pension 18,754 20,934
Minimum Income Guarantee 3,455 2,513 2,929 4,403
Child Benefit 7,906 9,572 4,725 8,081
War Pensions 2,154 929
Total GB Benefit Accounts 27,850 50,451 21,441 61,003

The figures compare information available at one date to the next, and are only available from 15 June 2002.

Some benefit data are received less frequently than four weekly.

Where there are no figures, these will be included in the next period for which figures are shown, as the calculation cannot be done until the data is received.

People in receipt of more than one benefit may have those benefits combined to a single benefit account. Figures are in terms of these accounts.

Mr. Todd

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that financial advice is available to those persuaded to open bank accounts for the first time by the changes in benefit and pension distribution through the Post Office. [101438]

Malcolm Wicks

Government Departments and the Post Office will provide customers with full factual information about their banking options but are not qualified to and must not advise customers on which account is most suitable. It is for customers to choose which account best meets their needs and circumstances. Customers who are having difficulty deciding which account is best for them can seek advice from independent organisations.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit claimants have migrated from direct payment to automated credit transfer in each month since January 2002, broken down into recipients of each major benefit. [102985]

Malcolm Wicks

The information is not available in the format requested.

Such information, as is available on the number of accounts that have migrated from paper based methods of payment to direct payment into a bank or building society account in each month since January 2002, is shown in the following table.

Mr. Webb

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions under what circumstances follow-up phone calls are made by his Department to benefit recipients who opt not to receive payment by automated credit transfer into a bank account; how many such calls have so far been made; how many individuals have opted for ACT in response to such calls; how many staff are employed making calls, and at what cost to his Department; and if he will make a statement. [104001]

Malcolm Wicks

We are not currently re-contacting customers who have received letters inviting them to move to direct payment and have responded to opt not to be paid this way. We are, however, following up the invitation letters where customers have not responded. In some cases this is by a follow-up telephone call as part of the work undertaken by the Direct Payment Centre. This centre currently employs around 190 staff. Up until 17 March, 122,704 follow up calls have been made.

The Department set up the Direct Payment Centre to handle the conversion to direct payment. This is a managed service that deals with telephone calls, the distribution of invitation letters and the collation of information when customers details are received. We can therefore not differentiate between these functions to provide costings.

Dr. Cable

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 28 February 2003,Official Report, columns 761–62W, if he will place in the Library copies of information sent from his Department to benefit recipients. [101289]

Malcolm Wicks

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) on 6 November 2003,Official Report, column 406W. The latest version of the information will be issued from 1 April and will be placed in the Library thereafter.