HC Deb 13 February 2004 vol 418 cc306-7W
Bob Spink

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will review all advertisements encouraging retired people to take up their benefit and tax credit rights in order to ensure that they are clear, unambiguous and accurate; and if he will withdraw advertisements that fail in these respects. [153079]

Malcolm Wicks

We constantly review advertising throughout a campaign to ensure it is working effectively—so that we can take appropriate action if necessary.

DWP national advertising is checked for clarity, comprehension and accuracy prior to publication or broadcast to ensure that our approach is clear and will generate the desired response. This may involve focus group research among representatives of the target audience and clearance by the relevant broadcast standards authorities. The process can also involve Departmental consultation with key stakeholders such as Help The Aged or Age Concern. Major campaigns also use tracking research to identify any issues of clarity, comprehension and accuracy, in order to optimise campaign performance and ensure that the public have clear and timely information on entitlements and benefits.

Some local advertising, for example one-off local newspaper advertisements informing the public about outreach events, does not follow this process, as the advertisement just highlights the details of the event. It would not be cost effective to adopt the approach above in these cases.

The Department is not responsible for advertising tax credits.

John Barrett

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to increase awareness of(a) disability and (b) sickness benefits. [153378]

Maria Eagle

The Department continually strives to ensure that its customers are aware of any potential entitlement to disability and sickness benefits. The Department publishes a wide range of literature and this is available from numerous easily accessible sources such as offices of the Department, some post offices, doctors' surgeries or advice centres. These, together with free telephone helplines/ensure that the public have sufficient information to enable them to make informed decisions about disability and sickness benefits.

The Department has a national, regional and local outreach programme in place that aims to promote and raise awareness about availability of services. The Department also meets regularly with partners from local authorities and welfare rights organisations that represent customers with physical, mental and sensory impairments, to ensure that they are kept up to date with our initiatives to modernise the delivery of benefits.

Expert advice is also available from advisers in Job Centre Plus offices which are rolling out over the next two or three years or Social Security offices, about all the benefits that can be claimed by people of working age and about the best steps for moving towards work.

For people with internet access information about all benefits and how these may be claimed is also contained on the DWP website.

The effectiveness of these initiatives has, for example, contributed to the increase in the number of disability living allowance recipients by 25.4 per cent. in the five years to August 2003 and by 5.9 per cent. in the last 12 months alone.

Forward to