HC Deb 25 March 2004 vol 419 cc1028-9W
Ms Abbott

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the impact of his Department's policies on the constituency of Hackney, North and Stoke Newington since 1997. [162290]

Mr. Browne

The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001; since then, we have undertaken a fundamental overhaul of the welfare system, transforming it from a passive organisation paying out benefit: to an active system that fights poverty, creates opportunity and helps people become self-sufficient and independent.

We are making a significant contribution to the Government's objective of eradicating child poverty in 20 years and halving it within 10, and there are now half a million fewer children in relative low income than there were in 1997. Child Benefit is now worth £16.05 a week for the eldest child, compared to only £11.40 in 1997, benefiting 13,200 families in Hackney, North and Stoke Newington.

Through Jobcentre Plus, we are promoting work as the best form of welfare for people of working age. The number of people in work is at historically high levels of over 28.27 million. Unemployment in Hackney, North and Stoke Newington has halved and long-term unemployment has fallen by over 75 per cent.

Our New Deals have helped lone parents, the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, disabled people, the over 50s and partners of the unemployed to move from benefit into work. Nationally over 1,029.000 people have been helped into work by the New Deals, and over 9,500 have been helped into work in Hackney, North and Stoke Newington.

We want all pensioners to have a decent and secure income in retirement and to share fairly in the rising prosperity of the country, and our first priority has been to help the poorest pensioners. The Government will be spending an extra £10 billion in 2004–05 on pensioners as a result of measures introduced since 1997; this is £6 billion more than an earnings link would have given them. Almost half the extra spending, around £5 billion, is going to the poorest third of pensioners.

Pension Credit, introduced from October 2003, provides a contribution to a guaranteed minimum income for those ages 60 and over and, for the first time, those over aged 65 and over may be rewarded for modest savings and income. Around 4,559 pensioner households in Hackney, North and Stoke Newington are already benefiting from Pension Credit, with an average award of £69.81 per week.

We know that older people are disproportionately affected by fuel poverty, and this winter (2003–04) we have made available a Winter Fuel Payment of £200 for each eligible household to help with their fuel bills. In addition, the introduction of the 80 plus annual payment gives an extra £100 to households where there is someone aged 80 or over. So far 10,120 older people in Hackney, North and Stoke Newington have received a payment this winter; of those 1,865 have received the 80 plus annual payment.

On 17 March, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget statement, announced a £100 pension payment to households with someone aged over 70, to help with council tax bills.

Some 8,900 pensioners in Hackney, North and Stoke Newington benefited from the above inflation increase in the rate of basic state pension from April 2003. Those over 75, of whom we estimate there are about 3,700 in Hackney, North and Stoke Newington, may also qualify for free TV licences.