HC Deb 13 February 2004 vol 418 cc168-9W
Lady Hermon

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many pensioner households in Northern Ireland are in receipt of pension credit; and what steps he is taking to increase take-up. [155200]

Mr. Spellar

There are currently 82,000 households receiving pension credit. Between April 2003 and October 2004 the Social Security Agency will have written to every pensioner household where they are not already receiving pension credit to advise them about the new pension credit.

To maximise the benefit take-up, there is also a publicity campaign in local and national newspapers and also on television. In addition to this the Social Security Agency has also appointed a Pension Adviser to each of its office areas to actively promote the take up of pension credit and other benefits.

Mr. Beggs

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 2 February 2004,Official Report, column 720W, on pension credit, by what date he expects the current backlog of pension credit applications to be cleared; and how long he estimates it will take to process a new application for a pension credit. [155628]

Mr. Spellar

A recovery plan is being put in place and the situation is being addressed as a matter of urgency. Clearing the backlogs and improving the unsatisfactory standards of service to pensioners is the Social Security Agency's top priority.

It is estimated that it will take on average of 50 days to process a new application for pension credit.